P. J. O’Rourke asks the question torturing most of us. How did things go Wrong so fast? O’Rourke traces the Presidential Campaign from New Hampshire to the Republican Convention (O’Rourke claims he slept for four days!) and the Democratic Convention to the Debates to the Election. A lot of Bad Memories for me. You’ll find the analysis of the candidates humorous. Since How the Hell Did This Happen is one of the first books on the 2016 Presidential Campaign, it lacks the insights into “Fake News,” and Russian hacking. War clouds loom over Syria and North Korea. What do you think happened in the Election of 2016? GRADE: B

32 thoughts on “HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN: THE ELECTION OF 2016 By P. J. O’Rourke

  1. Deb

    I won’t get up on my soapbox about a quarter-century of brain-washing from the right-wing echo-chamber and its commensurate demonization of Clinton for being nothing more than a competent woman, I’ll just say this: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over three million votes. In the states that turned from blue to red (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc.) and gave Trump his electoral victory, his margin over Clinton averaged about 100,000 votes. Essentially, just over half-a-million voters negated the winner of the popular vote. I believe this will become the norm in future presidential elections. All the GOP has to do is carve out some narrow victories in a few swing states and voila!

    /It’s at times like this I wish I were a drinker.

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    All true, but if not for Comey’s bungling meddling, she still would have won. Of course, imagine the crap we’d be putting up with from Trump, Fox News, and the Republicans in Congress then. It’s a nightmare I do NOT want to revisit, however. Glad you read it so I don’t have to.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, P. J. O’Rourke admits to being a Republican on p. 85. On page 185, O’Rourke endorses Hillary Clinton. But, when Hillary loses, O’Rourke ruefully says, “My endorsement didn’t help Hillary in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania.”

    2. SteveHL

      Jeff, I am not so sure that Comey’s meddling was bumbling. I suspect that he got exactly the result he wanted.

  3. Patti Abbott

    So many things went wrong. I blame the media for covering Trump so much more than Hillary. And Comey has a lot to answer for. And I blame the Dems for not seeing the discontent in the hinterlands and addressing it.

  4. Rick Robinson

    You have to remember that O’Rourke is essentially a humorist, not a politicist or analyst. He has written many wickedly funny books, but this probably isn’t one of them.

  5. maggie mason

    I agree with all the comments above about some of the reasons for his win. Comey and the russians are a big factor, but also the gerrymandering. John Oliver had a good show on it last night. Arnold Swartzenegger is really campaigning against it. The only time in my life I voted in an election for a Rep. was for Arnold for our Governor. He was running against a crook. I think he did a good job as our governor, he was moderate and worked with both parties. I did register as a rep. in the primary when reagan ran so I could vote against him in the primary.

    Even when the polls showed Hilary having a big lead, I remember being doubtful, though on election night, I thought I was proved wrong. I was out to dinner with some friends, and walking back to the car we saw election results showing Hilary with a big lead, then before I went to bed, I saw she still had a lead, and I woke up to the worst nightmare I’ve ever had.

  6. Mike Doran


    That’s what this is really all about – and has been from go.
    If the EC had been abolished a century ago, as it should have been, Hillary Clinton would today be President.
    And McConnell & Ryan & Gang would be devoting all their time to nickel-and-diming her to death, as they did to the Obama administration for most of its duration.

    There’s a website called Perhaps you know of it.
    Within this site is a feature called Gaming the Electoral College.
    A more aptly named feature cannot be found anywhere.
    I suggest that all of you visit this site and in particular this feature.
    And I mean read all of it.
    All the different interactive parts.
    It’ll take a while, but you’ll learn much.
    After that, maybe –maybe – we can figure out some way to deal with this ulcer on America’s Body Politic.

    1. george Post author

      Mike, you have a good point. If it wasn’t for the ELECTORAL COLLEGE, we wouldn’t have Trump (and we wouldn’t have had Bush).

  7. wolfi

    As a European I watched the whole thing with horror – I still remember my astonishment when Trump won against all the other Republican candidates …

    After that it was kind of obvious that anything might happen on election day.

    Of course most Europeans are not happy, the whole EU is squirming and speculating:
    What will happen next in Washington DC?

    Many of us consider Trump a kind of clown (the stories you read about him – and it’s not fake news) – but he has the power in his hands …

    1. wolfi

      Yes, the electoral college is (like many things in the US constitution) a remainder from the old times – for us it sis kind of crazy that the constitution has not been really “modernised”.

    2. george Post author

      Wolf, the EU is in trouble. And Trump isn’t supportive. The Electoral College gives small states some power. If the Electoral College was eliminated, the candidates would only campaign in Big States like California, New York, and Texas.

      1. Mike Doran

        As it stands now, with the Electoral College, candidates only campaign in the “battleground states” – the ones that end up in dead heats (or nearly so).
        That’s what happened in PA, WI, and MI. Winner Take All turned photo finishes into an EC rout that cancelled out big Clinton numbers in those so-called “large states”.
        That’sGaming The Electoral College” – and the only way to stop that is to amend the Constitution.
        Anybody here old enough to remember the Equal Rights Amendment – and what happened to that?
        Now I’m really worried …

      2. george Post author

        Mike, you’re right about the “Battleground” states. A lot of Dark Money flows into the campaigns to move voters in those states. But the influence of “fake news” and “alternate facts” can’t be underestimated.

      3. Mike Doran


        I’m not underestimating “fake news”, which we’ve always had with us in one form or another.
        That’s a part of the overall problem – we’ve become used to it, like Daylight Savings Time, or the Infield Fly Rule.
        Or the Electoral College.

        Years of admittedly overthinking this have led me to the conclusion that the Electoral College is the Head of the Big River – from which all the other stuff flows.
        “Battleground States”, “Southern Strategies”, Gerrymandering, targeted campaigns, “alternative facts”, tightly staged events, “scandals” that draw little or no outrage (even from those who should be most outraged) –
        – most of us just shrug and say “It’s what they do …”

        It’s like that story Jack Paar used to tell about meeting an old lady and asking her who she was going to vote for, and she said she never voted:
        “It only encourages them.”
        I’m coming up on 67 years old, and “… oh, ’tis true, ’tis true …”.

      4. george Post author

        Mike, you’re right on the button with your analysis. Our political system is being manipulated by Dark Money and foreign hacking. It’s all a campaign to sow distrust and chaos in the the Western Democracies. Germany and France are facing the same problems.

    3. maggie mason

      Wolf, I consider the orange one a clown, and not a humorous one, or even a desirable one. He’s a joke, and sadly, it’s on all of us. sigh.

  8. Patti Abbott

    And now that a simple majority is all that’s needed in the Senate, all kinds of bad things will happen overnight.


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