Molly Ivins is an immortal figure. The political commentator, muckraking journalist, proud Texan, and longtime supporter of the ACLU may have passed away more than 12 years ago, but her legacy lives on through her writings that shook up political conversations nationwide, but especially right here in her home state of Texas.
Molly continues to raise hell in many ways—as she loved to put it—as evidenced by the new documentary about her life and career, which had its Texas premiere this week at the South by Southwest festival in Austin.
There are three other ways that Molly Ivins keeps inspiring those she said would be her legacy: new generations of rabble rousers, hell raisers, and anyone else with an unquenchable thirst for truth-seeking and equity, just like Molly.
1. She can still bring a crowd.
Molly Ivins could sell out an auditorium and keep a full house laughing with her quick wit. In early February, the world premiere of the documentary, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to another packed house.
People from around the world, including many traveling from Texas, gathered to watch the intimate portrait of Molly, her upbringing, her demons, and her rise to become one of the best known journalists in the nation. We’ll spare you a long synopsis of the documentary—you should just go see it when the film comes to a theater near you.
2. Her critiques of federal and Texas state politics ring as true as ever.
Molly’s larger-than-life presence was one of the factors that made her such a renowned journalist. She embedded herself into Texas politics, observing the inner workings of the old boys club that surrounded her, making friends she could skewer just as easily as she could nail the enemies of democracy she didn’t know so well. To those who regularly ask, “What would Molly say about today’s politics,” I say, read her books again, watch this documentary. Then, you’ll know.
“I never saw anything funnier than Texas politics.”
But Molly didn’t limit her commentary to just state politics; she was a vocal critic of various presidential administrations throughout her tenure, writing books about several commanders in chief, Republican and Democrat alike.
“Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don’t much care for… politics is not about those people in Washington, those people in your state capitol… this country is run by us, it is our deal, we run this country, we are the board of directors, we own it, they are just the people we’ve hired to drive the bus for a while.”
At the core of her biting political commentary was the sincere belief that the U.S. belongs to the people of this country, not to the politicians who we elect every few years to hopefully act on our directions. That is something that will never go out of fashion.
3. She still supports the ACLU.
Molly Ivins was a committed ACLU member for much of her life. She donated monthly speeches to ACLU affiliates across the U.S. to help raise funds and awareness about the key civil rights issues of the day. She even once proclaimed:
“I’d rather join the 11 brave ACLU members in Podunk Alabama in the basement of the Holiday Inn than the thousands of ACLU members in New York or Los Angeles.”
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press were especially important issues, given Molly’s vocation, but she was fiercely committed to the ACLU’s mission of protecting civil liberties for all. When Molly passed away, she left half of her estate to the ACLU, reminding us all:
“So keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Be outrageous... rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through celebrating the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was!”
You can join the fun and the fight, too. Become an ACLU of Texas member today along with the 50,000 other Texans who have committed to upholding the principles of protecting freedom and promoting justice in the Lone Star state.