Eeyore ’s Corner: From Hippies to Yuppies to Our Puppies?

Victor Davis Hanson // Private Papers

Part Two: Yuppiedom

The nihilism of the protests movements, the drop-outs’ human wreckage, the end of the draft and American involvement in Vietnam, and the ‘silent majority’ reaction to hippiness, all ended the Sixites, albeit in the 1970s. George McGovern’s landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972 marked the beginning of the end of the age of protest. Both the right-wing insurance agent and the aging professor, like the silly Dionysiac outfitted Teiresias and Cadmus in Euripides Bacchae, now wore paisley and bell-bottoms, and viewed Deep Throat, but otherwise America was on to taste and the good life.

Even Watergate hysterias could not save the now despised hard Left. Jimmy Carter was in 1976 elected on the basis of his southern accent, the downfall of Nixon, and the ruse of Democratic centralism. When Carter proved that he was both a sanctimonious leftist and an incompetent—stagflation, the Iran hostage crisis, oil shocks, “malaise”—then followed 12 years of a Reagan-Bush regnum that politically nailed shut the Sixties coffin. 

Bill Clinton squeezed out eight years of a Democratic revival, but only by using his southern patina, good ol’ boy, “aw-shucks” schtick. And still he needed, counted on, third-party Texas populist Ross Perot to siphon off mostly traditional and populist swing voters in 1992 and to a lesser extent in 1996. Remember that the fake centrism of the “New Democratic” party was a brilliant Dick Morris’s creation, which for a decade professed an end to open borders, talked up more policemen on the beat, and even bragged about school uniforms. 

From 1980 through 2008, we were in full Yuppie mode. Aging hippies or pseudo radicals kept vestigial and mostly superficial elements of the 1960s—longish hair, wire-rim glasses, casual fashion, dope smoking, spiraling divorce, promiscuity—but channeled their innate conceit and self-centeredness into making money and consumerism. So-so novels chronicle the metamorphosis like Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney, or Louis Auchincloss, Diary of a Yuppie.

If in their 20s, these radicals talked about communes, geodesic domes, the “revolution,” and heavy metal, in their forties, fifties and sixties they had transmogrified into Yuppie careerists, sensualists, now on their own and in need of enough cash to sustain the extravagant indulgences of the 1960s with refinement. The most ambitious yuppies focused on Wall Street, the corporate boardroom, the media, academia, entertainment, and especially the new Silicon Valley—all the industries and professions geared to take off when the US went global in the 21st century, and all the institutions now mostly absorbed by the Left. Was that the Yuppie legacy? Making lots of money, while subverting what empowered them?

Fine wines, obsessions with diet and ‘healthy living,” granite counters, stainless steel appliances, wood floors, vacations to Tuscany—supposed upper-middle class elite tastes were the remnant protests against fast-food America and deplorable fly-over culture. Sixties stuff like Ramparts Magazine and R. Crumb cartoons gave way to House Beautiful and a new versions of Esquire and Vanity Fair, with ads about high-priced liquor, clothes, and vacations. 

Yuppies were not so political like Hippies, or rather they fused their ideology, such as it was, into mainstream American capitalism. They assumed the country was stuck in a leftist-centrist orbit—Bushes and Clintons—that did not impinge on their personal and financial agendas. 

Certainly, read the Democratic platforms at the 1992 and 1996: they are to the right of a John McCain/Mitt Romney/Jeb Bush Rhinoism. For all the caricatures of the Yuppies, they sort of outsourced the 1980s culture wars to the hard-core, die-hard and remnant Sixites revolutionaries and instead unthinkingly, and without much zeal, just assumed the 1960s radicalism would, here and there, seep in, or was already too deeply imprinted inside the cultural DNA to ever be removed. It would reemerge at the opportune time to add style, panache, and acceptable ways to assuage guilt to Yuppie good life. Take the career of Barack Obama. He was slightly fake-Sixites in his youth, then full Yuppie. And now he’s gone Puppy-like as murmurs how unfair it is that we did not appreciate all the forces that prevented him from going full woke in 2009. 

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6 thoughts on “Eeyore ’s Corner: From Hippies to Yuppies to Our Puppies?”

  1. Two comments:

    Clinton seemed more conservative than he was. more centrist, moderate. Dick Morris told him to triangulate, go along with the 1994 Gingrich/Armey congress. Clinton did that. And when the economy improved and everything got better, Clinton took credit for the job Congress accomplished.
    For two years, 1993 and 1994, Clinton complained that he was handed a much worse economy than he thought and he couldn’t balance the budget in two years, then he couldn’t do it in three years. By the time the election of 1994 came around Clinton was saying he couldn’t balance it in fifteen years.
    The Armey/Gingrich congress had a balanced budget by the end of 1995, in less than one year. And Clinton took credit for it.

    Obama felt dejected when Trump surprised everyone and pulled out his win in 2016. So for four years the left investigated, insulted, used lies and impeachments to prove Trump was not a real president, that he stole the election or was helped by the Russians or whatever they came up with each moment. Obama’s Justice Dept. appointments and the cooperative left press did all they could to try to bring Trump and his supporters down .

    They were not going to let that happen again. This time they were ready to make sure they did not lose.
    We know what happened next.

    So now Obama has his puppets in place and the left can finish the job Obama wanted finished with Hillary, the ruination of our great nation, the tearing up of our Constitution, the chaos and destruction of our big cities, the open border and hundreds of thousands of illegals and all the mess that brings, the end of energy independence of our country, high government spending and inflation which will make our money worthless and make our assets’ value go down dramatically, the stealing of our language, indoctrination of our children and no allowing school choice, one worldism ending the self respect and patriotism of loving America as the greatest country on earth, the federalizing of election law, eventually leading to one party Communist tyranny. I could go on. But I think you all know what I mean.

    Do we have the strength to fight back? Do we have the wherewithal?

    G-d help us.

  2. Joshua Behnke

    “And now he’s gone Puppy-like *as* murmurs how unfair it is that we did not appreciate all the forces that prevented him from going full woke in 2009. “

  3. Ralph Allen Rountree

    Transgenderism issue not pointed out!
    Humans are classified as an animal.
    We are told not to use words like he or she; which is a common description noting gender.
    If that is so, then this should apply to livestock also; usage bull, stallion, cock etc, should be eradicated.
    This would make farm and ranch legal transfer papers, open allowing, not so honorable intensions to manifest, easily.
    Hince, when a gay person decides to declare a chosen sex other than male or female, they may add a descriptive adjective after their gender.
    By the convolution of destroying the gender naming in biology sciences, uproots science and logic, in general.

  4. John Manspeaker

    Thank you for the accurate synopsis of the metamorphosis of a large segment of the Me Generation. Perhaps there was also a deleterious effect of the Libertarian philosophy, which contributed via ‘live and let live’ inaction, to the present Progressive harvest of the fruit of political power. In short, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

  5. Nicholas A Jones

    Thanks Victor – I appreciate all your articles and podcasts- I learn a lot – your context setting and pattern recognition are insightful. I have enjoyed the trilogy of Hippies-Yuppies-Puppies.

    My only critique of Yuppies- was this predominantly a conservative construct (hand in hand with Financial Big Bang – deregulation)?

    My view is the Yuppie was born on Wall Street and The City (the son and daughter of Regan and Thatcher – both from middle country middle class virtues) – who stimulated view brant economies. The Financial yuppie was (initially) a product of that Conservative (get rich school). Gecko, Bud Fox wanted to ‘xerox his fathers Union Shop crew’ offshore or to some deregulated precinct.

    From high finance it spread to the professional and creative class – and sure Yuppies were an urban animal: Chicago, New York, London, SF, LA and maybe they seeded the progressive Liberal, symbolic analyst (Robert Reich – Work of Nations) caste (which was anti – muscular, mid-continent, rust and farm belt USA).

    But I would tag financial deregulation and Republicanism, and capitalism raw instincts for helping form the Yuppie.

    Thank you Victor.

  6. Somehow this essay seems a little unfair, or at least to us boomers born in the mid 1950s or later (I’m VDH’s age). For us, we may have been well aware of the ‘60s swirl while we were in high school, but by the time we graduated the Vietnam War was waning, so we went to college, got jobs (or perhaps got jobs without going to college), and got on with our lives – some of us quite productively. If any of us dropped out and joined a commune or something it wasn’t for very long. True about the hair and some of the other activities, but most of us eventually married, bought homes, raised families – hey – just like our parents did.

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