Molly Ivins – Give ’em hell up there

I hope they’re laughing in heaven, because we’re crying down here.

Texas’ journalistic tornado, Molly Ivins, is dead of cancer at 62. Ivins, whose hundreds of newspaper and web columns constituted the definitive biography of the mad bovine known as Texas politics, peppered her writing with passion and sauced it (liberally, of course) with true love for her home state.

The last time I saw Ivins, she was on a panel of left wing celebrities on The Nation magazine’s annual cruise. She was warning her fellow pundits that if the Democrats didn’t figure out a way to answer Christian moms’ concerns about porn on the Internet, those women weren’t going to hear a word they said about the minimum wage and affordable healthcare.

Ivins was without a doubt the biggest draw on the cruise — this to the annoyance of speakers who considered themselves more profound and intellectual. Hanging out in the ship’s Internet area late one night, I heard one humor-impaired East Coast journalist grousing about it.

“These people would get up at three o’clock in the morning to watch Molly Ivins take a shit!” he snarled.

Molly Ivins fell into what I think of as the “home run hitter” camp of writing. Her columns could be formulaic. But every couple of weeks, she’d hit one into the bleachers. My personal favorites were in a series she wrote when a group of Texas legislators fled to New Mexico to prevent the Texas legisture from achieving a working quorum in the aftermath of a sleazy Republican redistricting. I can’t locate any of those columns online, but you’ll get a sense of her distinctive style from this anecdote, contained in an article she wrote for the Nov. 17, 2003, issue of The Nation:

At a meeting last year of the Texas Civil Liberties Union board, vicious hate crimes against gays in both Dallas and Houston were discussed. I asked the board member from Midland if they’d been having any trouble with gay-bashing out there.

“Hell, honey,” she said, with that disastrous frankness one can grow so fond of, “there’s not a gay in Midland would come out of the closet for fear people would think they’re a Democrat.”

Give ’em hell, Molly!

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