STRAIGHT PEOPLE WE LOVE
From mooning the KKK, to consoling Log Cabin Republicans, Molly Ivins says politics can be one helluva party— especially if there’s beer
BY DANIEL KUSNER
While ridiculing our legislature, Molly Ivins’ twangy turns of phrase make her one of Texas’ sharpest pundits.
For example, the columnist has characterized Lone Star politicians as so slow, “if his IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day.” So mean, “he wouldn’t spit in your ear if your brains were on fire.” And so ugly “that when he was a little boy, his momma had to tie a pork chop around his neck before the dog would play with him.”
The six-foot tall Lubbock native has never conformed to the norms of Southern womanhood. However, just being handsome and feisty doesn’t automatically make her a lesbian.
“About 10 years ago, I asked some women in San Francisco, ‘How do you respond when people assume you’re gay?’ They said, ‘Oh, just tell them that you are,’” Ivins laughs from her South Austin home. “Every now and again, I’m startled when somebody assumes that I’m a lesbian. I was there at the beginning of the second wave of feminism in the mid-’60s. And in those days, if you said you were a feminist, people thought you believed in free love and were against marriage — meaning you were an easy lay. Now when you go on college campuses and say you’re a feminist, people assume you’re a man-hating lesbian. And I thought, ‘How did we get from there to here without ever passing 'Go?’”
Ivins’ work has always leaned toward the cutting-edge of social change. But her foremost concern is how money mixes with politics.
“No matter what I’m writing about, it keeps coming back to that — this boring thing called ‘campaign finance reform.’ The tragedy is there are people absolutely committed to improving education, fixing the health care system, or doing something about AIDS. Well, it just never happens. Because who’d want to learn about something so inside-baseball-sounding as 'campaign finance reform?'” Ivins says. “Of course, the root of the rot is money. The entire system is corrupted by a method of legalized bribery.”
The other item on Ivins’ docket is encouraging folks to participate in politics. She says grassroots volunteering is more effective than brushing shoulders with national candidates.
“I was sort of looking at the universe of potential Democratic presidential candidates and just going, ‘Ewww ...’” she cringes. “It’s not who we run for president. I’m absolutely convinced that what we do at the bottom matters more than what we do at the top. This 'Take Back Democracy' thing is going to be done stone by stone by stone ... by people starting at the local level. The wonderful thing about politics is that you take 10 friends down, and y’all can pretty much take over any local precinct.”
When she’s not focusing on deadlines, Ivins trots around the country, like a missionary hell-bent on bringing the party to politics.
“Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, what are we going to do? Go somewhere and stuff envelopes all day? How delightful.’ Well, sometimes it’s like that. But the company you keep while stuffing envelopes for a good candidate is worth the price of admission. It’s a great way to meet people,” she explains.
“Just have fun with politics. Imagination and beer are very helpful,” Ivins continues. “Like, what if there’s a Klan rally and the ‘Kluckers’ are coming to town? This happened about seven years ago in Austin. We thought about it. I mean, you can’t make them shut up. They’ve got a right to free speech, too, the nincompoops. So instead, we mooned them when they marched. And it was lovely.”
What’s her take on Log Cabin Republicans?
“I was at the Republican State Convention in Fort Worth a few years ago, when they’d been once again denied admission. I forgot which one of our fundamentalist divines — some preacher and his followers showed up with ugly signs. So I went and hung out with the Log Cabin Republicans. And bless their hearts, they have a perfect right to be Republican, if that’s what they really think. But there’s an extent to call it ‘disconcerting’ that the party has just been so taken over by the Christian right.”
Despite the Jesus-flavored homophobia, Ivins remains optimistic that gay Republicans will eventually help change things for the better.
“It seems easy to say that if you’re that worried about gay people, you must be insecure about your own sexuality,” Ivins says. “I don’t know enough about psychology to know if it’s true or not. Obviously, the fundamentalist Christians have fastened on gay people as somehow emblematic of everything they fear. People are real slow to let go of prejudice. But it happens over time. And I know it’s going to happen for gays and lesbians.”
Daniel Kusner’s “Straight People We Love” column appears the fourth Friday of each month.
MAY 31, 2002 | Q TEXAS