A true story: In the latter part of that vast cultural sinkhole known as the 1980s, a presidential election was held--on November 8, 1988, to be exact. I remember that day well, since it was the last time I voted. I was 22 years old and in an uncompromising state of mind.

The race, as you may recall, pitted a whiny-voiced man named George Herbert Walker Bush, so insulated by his privilege he'd never seen a supermarket scanner until he hit the campaign trail, against a crashing bore of a liberal named Michael Stanley Dukakis, about whom the best thing that could be said was that his wife had a taste for pharmaceutical amphetamines washed down with hastily gulped mouthfuls of Stolichnaya. My estimation of MSD did rise somewhat when I learned that in the unlikely event some hairy-backed ne'er-do-well violated and killed said looped wife, he promised that he would not fall into the grip of an unreasoning bloodlust and demand said perpetrator's head. But opposing the death penalty was not nearly enough.

So I voted that year, but for neither candidate. In my youthful insouciance, and perhaps as an unintended consequence of my repeated efforts to unlock the doors of perception, I arrived at the conclusion that our country would be best served with a man of impeccable wit and wisdom at the helm. I acted accordingly, placing the full force and value of my vote behind Nipsey Russell, a talented comedic veteran who had come to my attention in the 1970s via regular and uproarious appearances on the always-lively Match Game (and on the much more uneven Hollywood Squares).

It then fell upon my unworthy shoulders to select his running mate as well. After great deliberation, I settled on velvet-voiced crooner Lou Rawls, whose 1976 ode to romance lost, "You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)," still stands as a masterwork of the rhythm and blues musical genre. I eagerly wrote in both names on my ballot, returned home, and engaged in a lengthy session of the sort of tawdry, unrestrained coupling with my then-girlfriend that can only transpire after the virtuous completion of an important civic obligation.

But my warm glow of achievement was short-lived. The Russell-Rawls ticket went down to ignominious defeat, the whiny-voiced man won, the crashing bore's wife checked into rehab, and I was left embittered and alienated. I vowed, as a consequence, to never vote again. And, as I have mentioned, I have adhered to that vow for 16 years.

Until now.

Under ordinary circumstances I would never consider violating my vow, but these are not ordinary circumstances. These are dark days, when our beloved nation groans under the lash of a witless ignoramus who directly talks--in ungrammatical English, we must assume--to an anti-liberal God who indulgently ratifies his every narrow, misguided belief about the world. Think I'm exaggerating? Last year the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that our president told the Palestinian prime minister that he invaded Iraq because God told him to, and he came close to saying the same to Bob Woodward.

This is, in fact, a crucial election, a showdown between the forces of progress and reaction. It is a war, if you will, of civilizations. It pits the once-proud Republican Party, which has sadly been hijacked by an American Taliban hailing from the unreconstructed white South and the rural interior--think prudish John Ashcroft ordering the breasts on a Justice Department statue be covered--against the Democratic Party, which in its own inimitably tenuous, humorless, and wimpish way, believes in pluralism, progress, and you porking (or getting porked) in more interesting ways than your parents did. It is the party of Crawford, Texas, versus the party of Seattle, Washington.

It is likely to be close, and if Seattle loses, I predict Neighbours on Capitol Hill will be forced to offer Bible-study classes on Friday nights, reefer will cost more, and you'll probably have to go off to war and die in some hot, dusty place to protect America from aluminum tubes and pretend uranium. None of these nightmarish possibilities affects me directly anymore--sadly, I'm too old and too married--but I am deeply concerned for the welfare of our young people.

So I am going to vote in November. I hope you will as well. Personally, I will vote in favor of Seattle, even if that means acting all serious. I think Nipsey and Lou will understand.