- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st edition (March 7, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802126197
- ISBN-13: 978-0802126191
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 188 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How the Hell Did This Happen?: The Election of 2016 Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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“Where are we going? Where have we been? P.J. O’Rourke casts his gimlet gaze on the circus of clowns-people foisted on us by the 2016 election―and demands to know How the Hell Did This Happen?”―Vanity Fair, Hot Type
“A no-holds-barred look at the presidential campaign. An across-the-aisle examination, and critique, of the candidates, the press, political punditry, and even an analysis of how he, a conservative libertarian, ended up endorsing Hillary Clinton.”―Bloomberg
“O’Rourke has been for decades the wittiest guide to America, and the usual ingredients are packed into this volume. How the Hell Did This Happen? is scabrously witty, inventive and rich in historical detail.”―Australian
"How the Hell Did This Happen? chronicles the most insane year ever in American politics . . . it's fantastic to have [O’Rourke] as our kind of Virgil through what I really do hope is the worst year ever.”―Nick Gillespie, Reason Podcast
“O’Rourke has plenty of company in concluding that the 2016 election resulted in a populist uprising. But few other writers have described it as powerfully and with such an economy of words.”―Washington Independent Review of Books
“How the hell did this happen? Maybe O’Rourke can’t definitively explain it all, but he can sure make you laugh while trying.”―Huffington Post
“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 . . . 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.”―Publishers Weekly
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
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There isn’t a lot I would say critical of this book. O’Rourke’s humor is not for dumb people, which means a lot of people may not find him funny. The truth is that he is the funniest political satirist in history, mostly because he just tells the truth, and the truth of our political lives has to be made funny for therapeutic reasons, or we all die. The book is highly readable and highly entertaining, and yet there is no sense in which the reader will feel it is light-hearted or silly. There is serious editorializing embedded in the constant exercise P.J. O’Rourke is committed to – namely, reducing the American citizen’s relationship to the state (and vice versa) to absurdity.
I will exclude the Trump-bashing and Hillary-detesting from my review. O’Rourke provides plenty in this book, captured from the 2016 real-time versions of the same, and I have said plenty on both subjects myself. But if there is a serious takeaway from this book, and there is, it is not merely that we should reflect on how truly awful both of our leading contenders were in this election cycle. His concluding chapter is an utter masterpiece critique of, and surrender to, the forces of populism. He adds sociological acumen to his portfolio in explaining how the elites have invited this revolt upon themselves. He also does so without vindicating the revolters, who, despite having a perfectly legitimate enemy in the forces of elitism, are themselves so often totally incapable and unworthy of individualism. Our society does not merely face a crisis of confidence in elite institutions; it faces a crisis of fear. The populist revolt is afraid of personal responsibility and freedom, and yet totally unsatisfied with the performance of those who have dared to rule them. And so here we are. Readers who care to better understand this phenomena will do well to pick up this book.
(I might add by way of shameless self-promotion, O’Rourke concluded his recap of 2016 with the aforementioned powerful critique of elitism and populism; my own book targeted for later this year, Making Responsibility Matter Again, happens to dig right into this hole. What it comes up with is a whole different story).
The columns and longer essays here fall into two types - humor and commentary. I often find his commentary insightful, and I always find his humor funny. More so than in previous books, however, his humor here is insult-driven. There are a lot of Chris Christie fat jokes, as he himself notes. This makes O’Rourke part of the problem, helping create an environment in which Trump can insult his political rivals freely.
I’d much rather see satire, using humor to point out absurdities, often through reductio ad absurdum. O’Rourke has done more of this in the past, and our best political humorists and cartoonists rely on satire, not insult.
I would also like to see his commentary move toward positive agendas in addition to criticism. As a libertarian, he favors both economic freedom in markets and social freedom in the form of tolerance. Except in 2016, he is strongly Republican. That means that he chooses economic freedom over social freedom. Why? Why is it more important to have free markets than to be free of people who would impose their moral beliefs on other people? I’m sure there’s a case to be made, but O’Rourke doesn’t make it.
The dilemma for American libertarians is that our two parties force that choice. In 2016, O’Rourke judged that Clinton was a bad choice on both dimensions but that Trump was much worse. Thinking more about the choices our two-party system forces on libertarians like O’Rourke would add a serious dimension to the insult-driven humor here.
The book is a collection of journal entries from the 2015-2016 campaign, in which O'Rourke had thought Trump had no chance--and then the idiot won. Some lines were great: Trump as the only person on the planet with a broken silicone brain implant, and so forth.
The other stuff, well, n'yeh.
He does have some good observations on pundits, however.
You might as well buy it used.
While the author nd I still don't see eye to eye n many things, we do agree on the crop of candidates for this election and on the final outcome. He is no fan of Trump and it certainly shows. The book is humorous, and gives a good oversight of just what we wound up with after the elections counts were finished.