cover image How the Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016

How the Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016

P.J. O’Rourke. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2619-1

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.)