Channeling Molly

Newspaper columnist and Texas raconteur Molly Ivins’ mortal coil left this plane on January 31, 2007 (Oh Lord, have we been without her for a decade?), dubious that she was bound for greater glory. While the right-wing pols who had to pull her barbs from their behinds thought of her as a fifth-columnist, all she was was a sharp-witted reporter of liberal persuasion who took notice of political bloviation and chicanery with devastating down-home rhetoric.

She is sorely missed, and in her absence the self-awareness of the politicking class in the Republic of Texas—if not everywhere—has sunk below irony. As Molly once said, the thing about holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. Oh sure, we have Stephen Colbert and John Oliver to deliver unto us outrage over political jackassery, but who remains so hard at work exposing political mendacity in regular columns syndicated in hundreds of newspapers? But then, does anyone read newspapers anymore?

As for how Ivins (whom National Review deep-thinker Kevin D. Williamson called a “shallow progressive polemicist”) would regard Donald Trump, some evidence does exist. In a column about how the media makes light of fitness to govern, written in 1999 during her stint at the Texas Observer, Ivins observed:

All this [lack of analysis of whether the several candidates for President are fit to govern] follows months of discussion on burning topics like W. Bush’s alleged drug use thirty years ago, vast attention to Gore’s shifting from blue suits to earth tones, Donald Trump being treated as though any reasonable citizen would consider voting for him, the Warren Beatty candidacy, and much more that is of no help whatever in selecting the next Leader of the Free World.

It seems she had already drawn a bead on the Trumpster. So what would she think of him actually being elected President and carrying on as he does? in my imagination she might say things like:

+ Trump cut his teeth cutting deals with criminal elements in the real estate game, which may explain why he’d had  so little success coming to terms with the Democrats, who don’t wink and nod enough and deeply resent him for muscling in on their faux-populist turf.

+ One might conclude that Trump’s cabinet and White House picks represent an attempt to syndicate his brand of schlocky sleaze across the vast fertile plain that is the executive branch, except that unlike his studied appreciation of organized crime, he has no clue about how the Gummint operates and neither do his minions.

+ The Beltway crowd doesn’t know what to do with James Comey. It’s sort of a sex scandal. Half of ’em want him twisting in the wind for not ripping Hillery’s bodice all the way down. The other half, who never trusted Comey anyway, bleat that Trump screwed him. And all these cats are pissed he didn’t share the porn he found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

+ There’s some truth to what right-wingers say about Liberal Media. Right now, network news and even NPR seem to be falling all over themselves to estimate which of Trump’s gaffs will be his last, but most of that suppositioning is about as grounded as a trailer park in an F-4 tornado.

+ It gave me the willies when I heard anti-Trump liberals proclaim “He’s not my President.” Not their psychopath, perhaps, but President? Don’t they remember racist yahoos hollering that when Obama was elected? What ever became of the idea that we get the kind of leaders we deserve?

Molly observed the disgruntling of white working class America in her big back yard, and predicted its wider efflorescence. She would hardly have been surprised to see the Trump campaign snooker this backlash. In one of her letters to The Nation called Lone Star Republic [1], she examined the bubbas of the Republic of Texas, a nativist white separatist group that took to the hills in the 1990s, beginning:

Called upon once more in my capacity as the World‘s Leading Authority on blue-bellied, wall-eyed, lithium-deprived Texas lunatics, I step modestly but confidently into the breach.

She ended with:

The second important point about ROT and its followers is that they should not be dismissed with the old put-down “Get a life.” That’s the problem. They can’t. Most of them don’t have the education or the skills to get and keep a decent job. They’re going to spend the rest of their lives in trailer parks. Basically, these guys are Bubba. A little stranger than Bubba usually is, but still Bubba. Maybe a high school education. Twenty, make that almost thirty, years of falling wages. No way to get ahead, And all day they listen to the establishment media tell them the economy is booming. Everyone else is getting rich. Mansions are selling like hotcakes. Big cigars and thick steaks are fashionable again. The angst of the soccer mom is the highest concern of our politicians.

There is so much anger out here. It is taking so many bizarre forms. And most of ’the media can’t even see it: Economic apartheid keeps the bottom half of this society well hidden from the top half. Texas Attorney General Dan Morales says ROT is “terrorism, pure and simple.”

“Dingbattery, pure and simple” I could buy. Terrorism? Beause a lot of Americans cannot forgive what happened at Wac0 and Ruby Ridge? Why should they? Ever heard anyone apologize for those murders? A lot of Americans have no hope, get no help and see their own government as an oppressive force. For them, it is, isn’t it? Working-class people are getting screwed by their own government. Its latest start is to cut the capital gains tax and the estate tax that kicks in after a person leaves more than $600,000. More tax breaks for the rich mean a larger share ~ of the tax burden for everybody else. What we have here is just a little case of misdirected anger. O.K., the U.N. and black helicopters are not the problem. But don’t underestimate the anger itself.

And now, in their coordinated all-out campaign to dump Trump, the established political class and its (non-alt) captive neoliberal media still have nothing to offer the forgotten cities and towns of Middle America. All they want is a more reliable imperialist, who won’t imperil free trade and stupidly alienate minorities, except, of course, those bubbas.


[1] The Nation 264:20, May 26, 1997. Reprinted in Molly Ivins: Letters to the Nation (R. Lingeman, ed.), The Nation Books, 2013.

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Geoff Dutton is an ex-geek turned writer and editor. He hails from Boston and writes about whatever distortions of reality strike his fancy. Currently, he’s pedaling a novel chronicling the lives and times of members of a cell of terrorists in Europe, completing a collection of essays on high technology delusions, and can be found barking at progressivepilgrim.review.

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