"Well: hold your nose."
That's something my mother says every election season. She rarely, if ever, likes the candidates she's voting for.
Fivethirtyeight shows us--not surprisingly--that Trump and Clinton are one and two in most disliked candidates since Roper (and probably others) started doing sophisticated polls of approval/disapproval of candidates. As of a few weeks ago, Trump has over 50% of Americans finding him "Strongly Unfavorable," where Clinton sits under 40%.
I noticed that generally the trend has been upward over the past 35 years. Not surprisingly, this mirrors the rise in wedge issues and the rise in how many party voters view the other as strongly unfavorable.
So at this point you should know many of the drivers behind rising mutual discontent, and the wedging tactics that get people to vote for the candidates that inflame their passions, even though those canddiates lack a broad appeal to the public in general.
But what does one do in a situation like this? It's likely that more Americans are going to hold their nose than ever before, voting for someone that they either don't like or actively dislike because of their loathing of the other candidate. This outcome doesn't seem ideal.
We could look to alternative voting methods like Single Transferable Vote (explained by CGP Grey in this video), designed to limit (though you can never eliminate) strategic voting. Strategic voting is when you don't vote for your favorite candidate because you believe it increases the likelihood of someone you really don't like getting elected--thus the "vote against."
Another approach may be re-growing the parties--they're smaller than they have ever been before (making up each about 1/4 of total voters). If the parties grow and bring in more outside voices, they'll demand a candidate that appeals to a broader base.
We could potentially go back to the days when party bosses, rather than voters, picked primary candidates.
Until then, we may be stuck holding our nose.
What other approaches could we take? Structural changes, or cultural ones? Interested in your thoughts; drop 'em in comments.