Summer is almost over, the presidential election is only two months away, and Americans, let's just say, are feeling uneasy.
It's not just the threat of another San Bernardino or Orlando that's hanging over us, or an economy that's still limping along at about a 1 percent growth rate almost eight years into Barack Obama's presidency, or that race relations are more tense than any reasonable person would like, or that health insurance premiums are going up, a lot — yes, again — despite promises from the president that because of his signature piece of legislation they'd be going down.
No, Americans are also uneasy because in a nation of some 320 million people the best we could come up with in the race for the White House are a congenital liar and a buffoon — and on any given day I'm not sure which is which.
Most Americans don't like either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Most Americans don't trust either of them, either.
A Washington Post/ABC News polls found that 59 percent of registered voters view Hillary unfavorably. The sunshine for Mrs. Clinton in that statistic is that 60 percent view Donald Trump unfavorably. As the Washington Post put it: "If it weren't for Trump, in fact, Clinton would be the most unpopular major-party presidential nominee in modern American history."
There's a word that describes the kind of country we would have with either of these two at the helm. It's a word with a lineage that goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. The word is kakistocracy. Kakistos means "worst" in Greek — and the whole word, invented by an English poet in the early 1800s, refers to "a government under the control of a nation's worst or least-qualified citizens."
To say there are better people out there, more honest people, people with genuine principles and character, is merely to state the obvious. The problem is that a lot of good people won't run. If one of them ever picked his or her nose in public, there's a good chance someone caught the crime on a smartphone — and there's an even better chance the cable news channels would run the video on an endless loop.
And God forbid, if they ever scratched their rear end while walking down the street, we'd be bombarded with BREAKING NEWS graphics on FOX, CNN and MSNBC before the anchor would come on to breathlessly reveal the scandalous news.
In other words, too many smart, good, decent people are too smart, good and decent to put themselves and their families through the ringer — even to become president of the United States.
There's also the money issue. Someone with little or no name recognition, no matter how qualified, would never be able to raise enough cash to run a successful campaign.
So we're left with who we're left with.
For what it's worth, I can understand — and even sympathize with — Democrats who say, "I don't like Hillary but I can't stand Donald, so I'm voting for her." And the same goes for Republicans who are saying, "I'll hold my nose and vote for Trump because there's no way I'm voting for Clinton." But it's the ones who passionately support either Clinton or Trump who fascinate me; the ones who aren't troubled by lies and deception and vulgarity and insults and buffoonery; the ones who think Clinton and Trump are Americans of great substance and character — despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. They are the kakistocracy we should really be concerned about.
Now that Labor Day is in the rear view mirror, the conventional wisdom tells us that the campaigns will begin for real; now that it's September voters will start to pay attention. This just in: They've been paying attention for quite a while now. And that's precisely why a majority of voters don't like or trust either of the major-party candidates.
But there is some good news to report as the election draws near. While the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are evidence that America has seen better days, our nation will survive no matter who gets elected — despite what the nervous Nellies on the hard right and the progressive left keep telling us. We survived two world wars, a Great Depression and 9/11. We will figure out a way to get by with either a congenital liar or a buffoon in the Oval Office - even if we're not sure which is which.
To find out more about Bernard Goldberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.