IN OLDEN DAYS, John Young would have been horsewhipped or shot in the back for the stuff he writes two or three times a week in the Waco Tribune-Herald. You don’t razz right-wingers in what Young has labeled “Bush-by-God country”—not if you value your kneecaps. An otherwise ordinary 54-year-old who wears wire-rim glasses and has a trim mustache and a receding hairline, Young is the rarest of a vanishing breed of Texans: the unapologetically liberal newspaperman. Since 1984 he has edited the Trib’s left-of-center opinion page and written columns of the sort that once incited a local Klan official to invite him down a dark alley, an offer that he politely refused. Yes, he is mild mannered, conscientious, and thoughtful, a family man in worn shoes who takes in stray dogs and cats and eats lunch at his desk, but in the harsh light of day he is exceedingly tart of tongue, boldly opinionated, and apparently fearless (or possibly addled). In other words, he’s a perfect nominee to replace the sadly departed Molly Ivins as the bee in the Texas establishment’s bonnet.
A century ago Waco was known as Six-Shooter Junction. It was always open season on newspaper writers, as readers with opposing opinions expressed their displeasure by taking in hand not pen and paper but gun and rope. Baylor students once tried to tar and feather, but settled on hanging, the legendary editor and publisher William Cowper Brann, whose Iconoclast regularly scorched the university and the Baptists. Brann was