Raise Hell: Remembering Molly Ivins

On 31 January 2007, Molly Ivins died of breast cancer, but who can say it wasn’t a combination of Reagan cynical folksy appeal to the inner racist of the white voter, Clinton’s move to the “center” read that Republicanism, and Dubya’s meteoric rise fueled by sheer stupidity? It was as much the stress and strain of lampooning the wretched naked self-serving grasping Texas and national politics as it divided the nation and began the long sinking of our republic into the vast consuming sea of authoritarianism. Who wasn’t be driven to drink living through those times?

Her life was a cautionary tale for all of us to follow: fight the good fight, but take care of yourself so you can continue on. Between her and Ann Richards (died 13 September 2006), we lost two powerful liberal voices in very conservative Texas who could disarm and charm with their humor and fillet and skewer with their biting wit.

When my first wife was in how-to-be-a-social-worker-school in the late ’80’s, Ivins came to one of her professor’s houses to spend the evening with some of the students. In a casual moment, Ivins said to her, “It’s always harder for us big girls.” It is a line that always stuck with me for its instant empathy, connection, and comfort. It stuck with my wife, too. She felt understood, accepted, and affirmed. It was a moment that resonated with both of us, and really reveals Ivins superpower, her warm insightful rapport with readers, audiences, people around her.

Neither my ex or Ivins was obese, they were both tall and big boned, broad shouldered and hipped. They didn’t fit the mold of what the world wanted from women, and Ivins recognized that struggle of swimming against the stream that all women, and all people, really, who are different find themselves doing. They have to expend more energy to achieve the same result. The further away from the mark, white, male, well-groomed, and well-proportioned, the more work it takes.

“I saw a shrink because I thought I suffered from fear of success,” Ivins confides grimly, “but I found out I suffered from fear of becoming an asshole.”

The Price of Being Molly in Texas Monthly

It was this perspective of being on the outside looking in that drove Ivins. She was on the outside of Texas politics being a liberal in an increasingly conservative state. She was on the outside of journalism. Even though she had a successful syndicated column, she could only write opinion pieces because it was the only place where divergent ideas were publishable.

It wasn’t until she published a book of her columns, Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? that she started to gain any national notoriety. And, in her usual self-deprecating style, she described her success, “I saw a shrink because I thought I suffered from fear of success,” Ivins confides grimly, “but I found out I suffered from fear of becoming an asshole.”

I haven’t made any memes commemorating her life because there are no suitable images with a Creative Commons license. However, someone made this meme showing Ivins’ insight into politics and where it was all heading:

If you get the chance to see the documentary of her life, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, or read the book, you should.

Let me know what you think of Molly Ivins in the comments.

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Image Attribution

“Molly Ivins movie 2 7 20” by safoocat is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

16 replies »

    • She left lots of people feeling threatened and she bore the brunt of the misogynistic push back, too. I’m afraid that came from allies as well as opponents. She was a remarkable woman.



        • Howdy Usfman!

          The relationship between the First Lady and the President is always interesting. There were several other “strong” first ladies. Lady Bird Johnson comes to mind as does Hillary Clinton. Nancy Reagan was a stronger and more influential First Lady than most people believed. Clinton, though, was the mold breaker. The press — the freed press, post-Watergate — got hold of her and criticized her for not being lady-like enough. I remember those early days in the WH for her. They were pretty rough.



    • As mine. She had her own demons to contend with as well as those of political conservatives.

      When preparing this post, I watched several of your speeches on YouTube. Her insights and humor hold up.


      Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved Molly Ivins (and Ann Richards!) and think it’s great that you’re reminding us about her. Super anecdote about her immediate connection to your ex-wife. Enjoyed the trailer, which whet my appetite for more Molly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was sick losing them both in such short order. Both of them funny, smart, witty, engaged.

      My favorite Ann Richards story: One sleepy Sunday when she was still governor, I was in a locally owned popular bakery in Austin waiting in line, when the whole place went silent. You know how when something happens and awareness of it makes its way like a boat’s wake across a crowd? That’s what happened. The silence progressed across the dining area and everyone turned to look at the door. There was Gov. Richards barefoot, in tights, and wearing an oversized t-shirt. She stood there for a moment and then said, “Howdy, y’all!” She went to the pick up counter and got a cake she had ordered.

      The fun of living in a state capitol.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. I miss Molly. It was from her that I, a Chicago Yankee, learned the proper Texas pronunciation of “bobwarre” and that one could refer to any human of any age and rank as “this old boy”.

    “If his IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day.” Molly Ivins

    “I learned two things growing up in Texas. 1: God loves you, and you’re going to burn in hell forever. 2: Sex is the dirtiest and most dangerous thing you can possibly do, so save it for someone you love.” Molly Ivins

    “What stuns me most about contemporary politics is not even that the system has been so badly corrupted by money. It is that so few people get the connection between their lives and what the bozos do in Washington and our state capitols.” Molly Ivins

    “I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn’t actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle.” Molly Ivins

    “The thing is this: You got to have fun while you’re fightin’ for freedom, ’cause you don’t always win.” Molly Ivins

    Liked by 2 people

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