Watching the unfolding Texas political campaign for statewide office — and seeing how it mirrors the intense partisanship that divides the nation — I keep thinking of Molly Ivins.
I wish she were around to see and hear the things coming out of politicians’ mouths.
Ivins died in 2007. She was just 62. She could skewer a politician — usually conservative and Republican — with the kind of skill that hasn’t yet been found since her death.
She coined the term “Gov. Goodhair” when referring to our lame-duck governor, Rick Perry. She wrote with flash, panache and she packed a tremendous rhetorical wallop.
I found this link from Mother Jones looking back on Miss Molly’s career. The folks at Mother Jones were anticipating the presidential campaign of Gov. Goodhair and thought they’d share some of Ivins’s pearls with their readers.
With Texas politics leaning ever more rightward, Lone Star State pols needed someone who could hold them accountable for their silliness and outright frightening policies. Ivins was the one to do it.
In all the years I worked in daily journalism in Texas I was proud to publish Ivins’s work in the two Texas papers where I worked. One was in Beaumont, the other in Amarillo.
You know what I learned about readers in both communities, even with their disparate political leanings and demographic composition? Her fans loved her and her foes loved to hate her.
It’s that latter category of readers that fascinates me.
If she didn’t appear in either paper — for whatever reason — on a given day, my phone would ring. The conversation would go something like this:
Caller: Yeah, where’s Molly today? I missed her column in the paper. I don’t agree with her, but I sure like reading her work. She makes me laugh.
Me: She’s taking a break. She’ll be back.
Caller: Good. She’d better be or else I’m cancelling my subscription.
There aren’t many journalists who can count “fans” among those who disagree with their commentary.
Former Sen. Phil Gramm visited us in Amarillo once years ago and we asked him to comment on a biting criticism Ivins had made about him. Gramm laughed and said, “Oh, Molly probably cried when the Berlin Wall came down.”
Well, she wasn’t a godless communist. She was as patriotic as any American I’ve ever met.
Her brand of patriotism doesn’t wear well in some circles these days. Her biting humor, though, would go a long way in the midst of what passes for political discourse these days.