The Good Fight of Molly Ivins

If writers, who lasso injustice and give light to justice, lift up our standards of fair play, then on January 31st, the nation suffered a genuine decline. For Molly Ivins lost her seven year battle with cancer and joined what her friend Bill Moyers called “that great Purgatory of Journalists in the Sky.”

Author and columnist syndicated in 400 newspapers, Austin, Texas-based Molly Ivins skewered pompous politicians, raked over corporate criminals and spotlighted the struggles of regular folks against the repressions and maraudings of the Big Boys and their Big Power.

It is a tribute to Molly that the various columns written in her praise each presented a different side of this remarkable Texas maverick and satirist.

New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, who teaches economics at Princeton, wrote of “her extraordinary prescience on the central political issue of our time”–the invasion and occupation of Iraq. She warned about the risks some five months before Bush took the U.S.A and its soldiers into this deepening quagmire and its boomerang impact. She warned about the dangers of “‘the peace’ which sure looks like a quagmire,” in January, July and October of 2003.

Krugman continues: “So Molly Ivins–who didn’t mingle with the great and famous, didn’t have sources high in the administration, and never claimed special expertise on national security or the Middle East–got almost everything right.” Meanwhile, he wrote, the specialists got almost everything wrong. The difference? “Was Molly smarter than all the experts? No, she was just braver. The administration’s exploitation of 9/11 created an environment in which it took a lot of courage to see and say the obvious.”

In an article on, people’s historian Harvey Wasserman covers Molly as a “doer.” It was as if she lived the Chinese proverb–“To know and not act is not to know.”

Here is Wasserman:

“She puts her heart and soul where her convictions are. She’s fought tooth and nail for The Texas Observer and whatever other worthwhile publications there are that can muster an audience in the Lone Star State. She’s worked with the great Jim Hightower in his climb to elected office. She supports candidates. She goes out of her way. She works hard. She makes her presence felt wherever she thinks it’ll do some good, no matter what the personal cost.”

John Nichols, who writes for The Nation and the Madison, Wisconsin Capitol Times had this to say:

“The warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen with the purpose of calling the rabble to the battlements, Ivins understood that change came only when some citizen in some off-the-map town passed a petition, called a Congressman or cast an angry vote to throw the bums out.”

Nichols reminded his readers that it was Molly Ivins who first alerted the country to Presidential candidate, George W. Bush with her bestselling book–Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (Random House, 2000) and went on a nationwide tour to punctuate her accurate, unauthorized history of the man.

A few months ago, she and Nichols launched a boomlet behind Bill Moyers for President. They received a flood of excited, supportive messages. Wouldn’t that be a fine living memorial were Moyers to carry his knowledge, experience and humanity at least through the Democratic primary season?

A longer reach into the future would be to establish summer journalism internships, associated with her Texas Observer, for aspiring young journalists and journalism students.

The following words by Molly can inspire and guide the interns:

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after you how much fun it was.”

I sure hope that your progressive well-to-do friends will do you this honor, Molly, on behalf of the much larger numbers of people who would benefit from those great young journalists carrying your irrepressible spirit forward.



Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!