How did they get there?

 The incidence of Americans who can't stand one or both presidential candidates allows an outsider to ask how such a duo got to the finals. 
It was one of the founders who wrote that men were not angels, and required controls over their passions. 
Neither Donald nor Hillary is an angel. Indeed, it is beyond me to conjure up a presidential contest as worrisome as this one, with one of the candidates widely seen as dangerous if elected, and the other tainted in several ways by a long history in the public eye..
The winnowing of those running should invite commentators and scholars to pore over the details for years to come. At this point, however, it's possible to identify elements of the mechanism for selecting candidates, the culture of America, and perhaps an element of dumb luck as leading to where we are today.
It may be tempting for some to conclude that Shit happens, and go on to the World Series or something else more pressing for them than the presidency. However, whoever wins is not only the US President, but will be more prominent and more powerful than anyone else for the coming four or eight years. What that person does or chooses not to do will effect all of us, wherever we live, in large or small measure.
It's common to damn the primary system for turning the choice into a circus, and there is something to that point of view. However, this isn't the time to turn back the clock to the time of the founders, and to ponder how to limit the electorate to the wisest, the most disinterested, or the people most likely to agree with me. 
A look at some of the crucial social indicators widely used to compare countries tempts the conclusion that Americans aren't the people to choose a world leader. Among their faults are Americans' highest score on obesity and lowest score on life expectancy when compared to all other western democracies. People waddling from McDonalds to the voting booth shouldn't give the rest of us high expectations about the results.
Until now, there was only one occasion since 1952 when the same party won the presidency three times in a row. Much of the time, Americans have tired of the incumbents, especially after a run of eight years. 
If the pattern held, 2016 should be an easy win for the Republicans, but their candidate is so out of it that major figures in the party and large donors are announcing that they cannot vote for him or contribute what was expected.
In such a situation, the Democratic nominee should be a shoe-in, but she is almost as widely condemned as her opponent, in her case for a long and shady record. She is given high marks for being well informed, and promising what should be done, but low marks on the expectation that she'll deliver if elected. Charisma is a matter of personal feeling. But her's seems as low as a student who has all the facts right, but is less than exciting as she recites them.
With all the talent available to the Democratic Party, it was the surprising bad luck that Hillary's only serious opponent was a figure who could too easily be labeled as far to the left of what was acceptable for American voters.
Donald Trump's big mouth and his problems with the party establishment may be the best explanation of his nomination. He tapped into the anti-government sentiments of long standing among Republicans. His posture as the champion of outsiders fits his damn-the-norms style of doing business, his success in avoiding taxes, his assertion of criminal charges against his well-connected opponent, threats to sue the increasing number of women who accuse him of harassing or molesting them, and his refusal to accept the established norm of honoring election results. 
It was enough to get a nomination from a party that has moved from the Rockefellers to the Tea Party, and inherited white racists after the move toward Civil Rights killed the Democratic Party in the South. But he comes up against a 21st century American electorate with--for people like him--too many Blacks, Hispanics, and politically active women, as well a lot of others frightened by his wildness and unsure about his lack of governmental experience.. 
It ain't over till it's over. The Wikileaks keep coming, along with the unconventional comments from the fat man with orange hair. We shouldn't bet a great deal on the health of either. Should one of them be filmed being carried to a car, it might tip things to the other.
Latest polls show a tightening of the race. Hillary is still ahead, but there may be many people ashamed to tell pollsters that they will vote for Trump. A week ago I was willing to bet a quarter on Hillary. Now it's down to a dime and moving toward a nickel.
In this quiet little corner of the Middle East, a prime concern is how the next President (and the present President in what remains of his term) will deal with a regional war spread across the map from Nigeria through Libya and Egypt to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and on to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Daily reports of battles, bombings, and atrocities dwarf anything Israel is accused of, but that hasn't quieted the innocents and anti-Semites who say that we are at the root of the problem.
We hear that Turkey is entering the fray in force, and likely to complicate things with respect to rival Syrians, Russians, Saudis, Iranians and other Shiites.
We might assume that Hillary will do more of the same as Obama with respect to the bloody chaos that surrounds us. That should bother Americans and Europeans more than it bothers Israelis. We're coddled by a tough defense establishment, and are not taking any of the Muslims streaming north and west out of their civil wars.
Donald's latest charge is that Hillary to move against the Russians in Syria, and thereby begin World War III.
Anyone having a sense of what can be expected from Donald, if he is elected, should let the rest of us know. 
My own guess is that a fair number of the people supporting him can't find Syria on a map. I hope that Hillary's people could do better, but I'm not sure.

Comments welcome
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem