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How the Hell Did This Happen?: The Election of 2016
     

How the Hell Did This Happen?: The Election of 2016

by P. J. O'Rourke
 

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This election cycle was so absurd that celebrated political satirist, journalist, and die-hard Republican P. J. O’Rourke endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. As P.J. put it, “America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692. So why not put Hillary on the dunking stool?”

In How

Overview


This election cycle was so absurd that celebrated political satirist, journalist, and die-hard Republican P. J. O’Rourke endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. As P.J. put it, “America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692. So why not put Hillary on the dunking stool?”

In How the Hell Did This Happen?, P.J. brings his critical eye and inimitable voice to some seriously risky business. Starting in June 2015, he asks, “Who are these jacklegs, high-binders, wire-pullers, mountebanks, swellheads, buncombe spigots, four-flushers and animated spittoons offering themselves as worthy of America’s highest office?” and surveys the full cast of presidential candidates including everyone you’ve already forgotten and everyone you wish you could forget.

P.J. offers a brief history of how our insane process for picking who will run for president evolved, from the very first nominating convention (thanks, Anti-Masonic Party) through the reforms of the Progressive era (because there’s nothing that can’t be worsened by reform) to the present. He takes us through the debates and key primaries and analyzes everything from the campaign platforms (or lack thereof) to presidential style (“Trump’s appearance—indeed, Trump’s existence—is a little guy’s idea of living large. A private plane! A swell joint in Florida! Gold-plated toilet handles!”). And he rises from the depths of despair to come up with a better way to choose a president. Following his come-to-Satan moment with Hillary and the Beginning of End Times in November, P.J. reckons with a new age: “America is experiencing a change in the nature of leadership. We’re getting rid of our leaders. And we’re starting at the top.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/30/2017
For those interested in one more look at the unusual road leading to the unlikely outcome of the unforgettable 2016 U.S. presidential election, humorist O’Rourke delivers a wry, dry, and occasionally laugh-out-loud take. O’Rourke’s chapter headings are worth a quick glance (“A Huck so Unlike Finn”); the throwaway lines are good too (“John Kasich is a two-word Republican suicide note”), and the general content doesn’t disappoint (notably Chapter 17, “Fashion Notes”). O’Rourke entertains with two ways to replace America’s dreadful election process and offers a breezy roundup of POTUS hopefuls who fell by the wayside even before 2016. (Remember Lincoln Chafee?) However, O’Rourke’s review of first ladies is sometimes cruel (Eleanor Roosevelt), insensitive (Betty Ford), or just plain boring (Laura Bush). In his view, America’s growing discomfort with leaders has led to the selection of “someone with no means to lead us.” Entertaining as O’Rourke’s quips generally are, it’s when he gets to the heart of the matter, discussing the mob mentality and the value of “individual dignity, individual freedom, and individual responsibility,” that his work is most pointed. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Praise for P. J. O’Rourke

“Whether you agree with him or not, P.J. writes a helluva piece.”—Richard Nixon

"P. J. O’Rourke is like S.J. Perelman on acid.”—Chris Buckley

“[P. J. O’Rourke] was able to yank conservatives out of the hands of the humorless and shrill, and make such writing accessible . . . He changed my life.”—Greg Gutfeld

“[P. J. O’Rourke] occupies a rare place among the laughing class: He has somehow avoided the orifice obsession that captivates many of its members; he identifies as Republican; and he is no mere thumb-sucker, having visited more than 40 countries to report on wars, regime changes, economic revolutions and the experience of drinking cocktails garnished with the poison sacs of cobras.”Wall Street Journal

“Outspoken conservatives have long been a minority in comedy, particularly in the mainstream media, which provided an opportunity for P.J. O’Rourke, who for decades cornered the market for prominent right-wing humorists . . . If his wry essays have a mission statement . . . it’s this: Starchy Republicanism is really, really fun.”New York Times Book Review

“As a cultural analyst, O’Rourke’s ability and willingness to simultaneously lampoon and celebrate himself and his generation are unequaled.”Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
10/01/2016
A famously acidulous political satirist and New York Times best-selling author, O'Rourke is perfectly poised to offer an overview of this year's improbable election campaign. Yes, he's a never-say-die Republican, and, yes, he has (reluctantly) endorsed Hillary Clinton. With a seven-city tour.
Kirkus Reviews
2017-01-24
Tossed-off bons mots on "this obnoxious political spectacle, the election of 2016."Longtime political satirist O'Rourke (Thrown Under the Omnibus, 2015, etc.) surprised observers during the 2016 cycle by weighing in, if without much enthusiasm, for the Democratic candidate—not to be expected for someone who had long identified with a kind of country-club conservatism. Considering what the Republicans had to offer, that's not really such a surprise, for O'Rourke has also long prided himself in contrarianism. Still, the author seems as much taken aback as any civilian by the spectacle that saw Donald Trump skyrocket over the preferred candidates, notably Jeb Bush, who, after all, was governor of Florida, "where balloting incompetence and corruption are vital to the GOP." One by one, O'Rourke examines the slate as, one by one, they fall: Chris Christie is a chump who makes bad suits look worse, Rick Perry a dimwit whose effort at wearing glasses to look intellectual convinces no one, Marco Rubio merely "the least insane candidate." Where O'Rourke hits hard on a mark, it seems almost accidental. His random remarks on Hillary Clinton's manner, for instance, eventually add up to a rather deft analysis of how the elite class operates, while the insurgencies surrounding both Trump and Bernie Sanders are two faces of the same coin, species of "internecine warfare [that] brings forth the worst from both sides." Still, even in the bloodletting and shambles, the author finds room for optimism: after all, we're not as fragmented as in 1861 ("that was polarized"), and he even ventures the view that our divisions and manifold special interests may mean that American voters "are becoming persons, not masses." It's not Hunter S. Thompson, and O'Rourke has been funnier, lots funnier—but then again, it may just be that our current political situation is no laughing matter.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802126191
Publisher:
Grove Atlantic
Publication date:
03/07/2017
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
733
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author


P. J. O’Rourke has written eighteen books on subjects as diverse as politics and cars and etiquette and economics. Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance both reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. He is a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me, and a columnist for the Stansberry Digest investment letter. He lives in rural New England, as far away from the things he writes about as he can get.

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