We don't much like our candidates

Neither Republicans or Democrats are very enthused about a lackluster presidential field

Ready to vote?
(Image credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

"None of the above." If the presidential election were held tomorrow, I suspect a majority of Americans might check off that box if it were an option. So far, at least 22 Democrats and Republicans have declared their interest in moving into the White House on Jan. 20, 2017, but none are generating much enthusiasm except Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump's astonishing rise from class clown to front-runner is an obvious indicator of Republicans' deep dissatisfaction with Jeb Bush and the sundry alternatives. Hillary Clinton's calculated evasions on her emails, the Clinton Foundation chicanery, and her hedging on tough policy questions, meanwhile, have deeply eroded her air of inevitability and her 60-point poll lead. Clinton's national "favorability" ratings are now underwater by 11 points. After surveying voters for The Wall Street Journal/NBC News, pollster Bill McInturff came to this overarching conclusion this week: "We don't much like our candidates."

Perhaps we don't much like the fact that in a country with 320 million people, we might have to choose between another Bush and another Clinton. And despite all the talk of the GOP's "deep bench," Bush's rivals haven't impressed anyone as the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Thus far, they look like flip-floppers and bumblers who aren't ready for the national spotlight. Trump and Sanders represent a voter protest — a hunger for clarity and unscripted authenticity. But their extremism leaves them with zero chance of winning a national election. So voters will have to work up some enthusiasm for what's on the main menu, as unappetizing as it may be. If it is true you get the leadership you deserve, we must be doing something wrong.

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William Falk

William Falk is editor-in-chief of The Week, and has held that role since the magazine's first issue in 2001. He has previously been a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Gannett Westchester Newspapers and at Newsday, where he was part of two reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes.