Monday, November 7, 2016

Hamburger Hippies

When I plod along Sunday afternoons lying on my back on the mattress on the floor watching the National Football League I have noticed the new Chili's commercials (though I didn't see any yesterday).

The ad campaign is called "The Hamburger Hippies." It celebrates the founding of the restaurant chain by bohemians from the Age of Aquarius. The counterculture is invoked with classic rock'n'roll songs -- Foghat's "Slow Ride" (1975), Faces' "Ooh La La" (1973) and ZZ Top's "Tush" (1975). I thought I heard Free's "All Right Now" (1970) too, but I can't verify that.

The ad campaign is effective because it reminds the viewer of a time when our culture seemed roomy and affordable enough that we could drink, get stoned and laid; then wake up the next day, yawn, and not feel paranoid about the rent going up or being late for work or feeling the need to check email or Facebook. In other words, society provided enough time and space -- freedom! -- for the working class to do what it likes, which is fornicate and alter the everyday mundane pensiveness of sober-minded consciousness.

We know though from the irregular -- the last one was in July -- "Hippies vs. Punks" posts that 1975 is in fact the end of the line for the Hippies. In 1976 there is an efflorescence of California lite rock with Hippie hues -- Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller Band, Eagles, Peter Frampton -- that signals an accommodation with the workaday world. No longer are the Hippies rocking out with cries of "Kick Out the Jams, Motherfucker!" Rather, it is a shift on the assembly line before stopping off for a meal at a Hippie-run eatery (probably what Chili's was at its founding; what Geppetto's was in my hometown) before returning home to smoke a joint and watch Baretta on ABC.

The Hippies made the transition back to The Man, exchanging their aspirations for another world, whether psychedelic or political, for a steady job, cheap rent, and free time filled with recreational drugs and looser sexual mores.

Sounds pretty good, but something mostly alien in our present digital age. We still long for such a society though. When Foghat's "Slow Ride" or Free's "All Right Now" fill the air we remember what it was like.

The GOP came to power in the late 1960s thanks to two Californians, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. They perfected the politics of white working-class resentment. The scapegoats were Blacks and Hippies, the Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles and the Freedom of Speech Movement at U.C. Berkeley.

Now with marijuana set for a legalization breakthrough and Black Lives Matter here to stay as a cultural force, the foundation of reactionary politics is cracked. Hippies and Blacks are saintly once again. Trump is the last gasp of White Flight, like the Iraqi Baath Party hiding out in Nineveh bankrolled by Saudi royals waiting to pop up reborn as the Islamic State.

Hillary will win, but the war will rage on.


  1. A friend who moved to the Bay Area from the Detroit area once waxed philosophically about how if your boss at Chrysler was bugging you could flip him off and walk down the street and get a job at Ford or Buick, no questions asked.

    Of course, fifteen minutes into his administration Obama walked away from the Employee Choice Act and into the arms of Larry Summers, so the signs were there.

    By the way, Cokie Roberts, the gatekeeper at NPR, explained this morning on public radio why liberals won't get what they were promised: Comey's announcements over the last ten days will narrow Hillary's margin, thus losing the Senate, thus giving us another four years of gridlock. So we can all watch Clinton wage war and dedicate statues while not having enough Dems to pass minimum wage, or a large infrastructure jobs program or tax the rich.

    (In case you didn't know, back when Gloria Steinem ran the propaganda house for the CIA at the old International Youth Festivals, Cokie and her husband worked for her. References on request.)

  2. Agreed, Bob. Stasis it is. Once we get our election over with the fun begins in Europe. Italy's constitutional referendum, which is a plebiscite on PM Matteo Renzi's reboot of neoliberalism. Ongoing Brexit shenanigans. The French election in March. Catalan independence next autumn. Slow-motion implosion of Greece. Reboot of the refugee crisis as Mosul is blown to smithereens, followed by
    the “Race to Raqqa.”

    As for tomorrow's election, reports from early voting in FL & NC are that black turnout is way down from 2012, like 10% down. But the gender gap more than makes up for it. For Trump to make it a squeaker, three things, as outlined by Nate Silver, have to happen: 1) Black & Latino turnout have to remain subdued; 2) Trump's non-college whites have to shamble to the polls in record numbers; and 3) the college-educated country clubber has to return to the GOP fold. That's a mighty trifecta. Trump might get one or two, but all three? Unlikely. Then there is the fact that the Dems, thanks in no small part to Labor, still have a ground game, which I think is good for at least a point, maybe even two.

    My sense now is that Trump is going to end up being a popcorn fart, much like Romney end up being.