A Tribute to Molly Ivins

“Hey Rothschild, you owe me a Heineken!” That’s what Molly yelled at me over the din at the Café Montmartre in Madison a few years back.

We were having a little fundraiser for The Progressive, and Molly had come free of charge, of course. Swarmed by fans after she spoke, she needed to wet her whistle, which she liked to do more than once in a while.

She had just finished telling one of her favorite stories (which we published in August 1993) about the Texas state legislator who introduced a bill banning sodomy, both homosexual and heterosexual, in the Great State, as she always called Texas. When this legislator succeeded in passing the bill with the help of an ally, the two men shook hands in celebration. “Whereupon, the Speaker had to send the sergeant-at-arms over to reprimand them both,” Molly said, “because under the new law, ‘it’s illegal for a prick to touch an asshole in the state.’ “

She loved to be naughty. For a while there, I thought the main reason she wrote for The Progressive was because we let her swear. But there were others: She knew we needed humor to lighten up our pages, and that our readers needed humor to lighten up their lives.

She believed in the power of laughter. She knew it could keep you from getting depressed or burning out. And she knew it could deflate the abusers of power.

Of the Reagan Administration, she said, “Half of it was under average—the other half was under indictment.”

Of Pat Buchanan’s culture war speech at the 1992 Republican convention, she said, “It read better in the original German.”

For 20 years, Molly wrote for The Progressive, and over the last 15, her monthly column provided the frosting on the last page.

She was, far and away, the reader’s favorite. Even my sister told me she read Molly first.

She was the favorite not only because of her humor and her style. She was the favorite because she never lost hope in the promise of America.

She often described herself as “ever optimistic to the point of lunacy.” She had faith in the people. She understood how messed up our democracy was, how in hock to the wealthy and the corporate, and so she championed campaign finance reform. She promoted egalitarianism. As Robert La Follette used to say, “The solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy.” Molly believed that.

And she was a fighter, to the end.

Somehow, even as the cancer was taking its terminal toll, she managed just a few weeks ago to summon the energy to crank out a couple of syndicated columns on the Iraq War. She was doing more than her part to stop Bush’s craziness, and she was urging all of us to do ours.

To Jim Hightower, to Lou Dubose, to her colleagues at her beloved Texas Observer, and especially to Betsy Moon, her right-hand woman, I send my deepest condolences.

I also want to thank all the Progressive subscribers who sent notes to Molly over the last several weeks. She appreciated that. “I’m overwhelmed by the kindness of you progressives, who have comforted me with your cards,” she said. “While I’m not able to get back to each and every one of you, please know that you’ve brought me cheer. On we fight!”

Molly, you brought us all cheer, month in and month out. And we will fight on.

I owe you a Heineken—and a whole lot more.

Matthew Rothschild is editor of The Progressive.

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Published at 6:52 pm CST