Who in their right (or wrong) minds would decide to travel to the underworld in a hand basket?
For starters, it would burst into flames within two soul-lengths of the fiery pit. Then there’s the image problem. Hand baskets are for holding bagels, flowers, and cute kittens. You’re going to enter Dante’s Inferno in one?
So why use the expression to convey the idea that something is hurtling towards a train wreck? A country that messed up would not fall apart wrapped in a pretty weave. Come on.
Not surprisingly, there is some uncertainty over where this dumb idiom came from. One theory suggests that it derives from the baskets supposedly used by the French when they were guillotining aristocrats during their Revolution. That seems like a stretch. Did the fussy French really use baskets to catch the falling heads of their enemies? Was there a shortage of catchers’ mitts?
We can do better that this silly saying. The first half is fine; the Hell imagery works well. But the second half should be left open to express the full horror of the situation. Here are some examples.
Going to Hell in a car with a texting driver
Going to Hell in a car on the closed George Washington Bridge
Going to Hell in an elevator with Ray Rice