Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

How the Hell Did This Happen?

The Election of 2016

by P. J. O’Rourke

An essential take on the stranger-than-fiction 2016 presidential elections from a quintessential voice on American politics and culture.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date January 09, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2765-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date March 07, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2619-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $25.00

About The Book

No comedian could have written the joke this election cycle has been. The punch line is too ridiculous (whoever the punch line is going to be). Or, as celebrated political satirist, journalist, and die-hard Republican P. J. O’Rourke put it in his exasperated endorsement of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton: “America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692.”

In his latest book, P.J. brings his critical eye and inimitable voice to some serious risky business. How the Hell Did This Happen? begins with him donning a hazmat suit and diving into the pig pile of presidential candidates circa June 2015 including Jim (“who?”) Webb, Scott Walker (“America’s chance to have a President who gets carded every time he orders a beer”), Ted Cruz (“crazy like a fox—no, like a Fox News broadcast), Bernie Sanders (“Donald Trump for people still living in their parents’ basements”), and Donald Trump (“Landlord of the Flies”). P.J. eviscerates each front-runner as he or she emerges from under the rock where they’ve all been living. He covers the dreadful key primaries and candidate debates. P.J. takes us through his come-to-Satan moment with Hillary—”She’s the second worst thing that could happen to our nation. I endorse her.”—and into the Beginning of End Times in November.

How the Hell Did This Happen? answers the key question of the 2016 presidential election: Should we laugh or should we cry or should we hurl? (They are not mutually exclusive.)


“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 . . . O’Rourke is never less than pleasurable company. I look forward to the companion volume, What the Hell Happens Next?” —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

“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

“Throughout a presidential election he described as a ‘horror movie starring a leading lady I can’t stand and a leading man I detest,’ the American satirist PJ O’Rourke wrote entertainingly—and sometimes brilliantly—for the likes of the Daily Beast, Esquire and the BBC. How the Hell Did This Happen?, his subsequent ‘compendium of scribble and yak,’ reveals this self-confessed Republican to be as befuddled as many others that the American public could ‘flip out’ to such an extent they would vote for a man whose ‘haircut makes Kim Jong Un laugh’ . . . O’Rourke has a real eye for the vagaries of American politics.” —Ben East, Guardian (UK)

“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


Who are these jacklegs, highbinders, wire-pullers, mountebanks, swellheads, buncombe spigots, boodle artists, four-flushers and animated spittoons offering themselves as worthy of the nation’s highest office?

Do they take us voters for fools?

Of course they do. But are they also deluded? Are they also insane? Are they receiving radio broadcasts on their dental fillings telling them they have what it takes to be a good president?

Perry, Santorum, Walker, Webb, Chafee, Pataki, Huckabee, Jindal, Graham, O’Malley, Paul, Fiorina, Biden, Bush, Christie, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, Sanders, Clinton, and Trump.

That’s not a list of presidential candidates. That’s the worst law firm in the world.

These people don’t have what it takes to be a bad president.