Barney Mullady of Springfield writes: "Discussing the 1972 election, a leading figure has said he voted for neither McGovern nor Nixon, and he still feels he did right.

"If the choice comes down to Carter and Reagan, he is threatening to sit on his hands again.

"Leaving aside the ancient maxim that all it takes for miscreants to assume power is for good people to do nothing, I think there is a more practical reason for voting. If the choise is between two unattractive candidates, I believe we should use our votes to support the lesser of the evils."

You are right, Barney.

It is the height of folly to say, "I don't like either candidate, so I'm just not going to vote." It is equally futile to rationalize. "The only way we can send a message to the politicians is by refusing to support all inadequate candidates."

Unfortunately, that's not the message politicans receive. When we stay at home and don't vote, the professionals rub their hands in glee. We have made it easier for them to put another of their own kind into office.

Political professionals -- those who run for office and those who hold political patronage jobs -- always vote. They'll arrive at polling places on crutches and in wheelchairs, if need be. They vote whether it's raining, the sun is shining, or the snow is two feet deep.

We average citizens are not inclined to vote unless we're given an attractive candidate to support. But when there is one good candidate pitted against one bad candidate, the need for your vote or mine is minimal. The clearly superior candidate is almost certain to be swept into office, whether you and I vote or go fishing.

The great need for our presence at the polling place is on the day when we least want to be there -- when the choice will be between two uninspiring candidates. One of the two will win office. To withhold support from either of them is to make it easier for the other to win. So a choice must be made to ensure that the office will go to the lesser of the evils, not to the greater of them.

Such choices are always difficult. Sometime we face up to them, but at other times we run away from them.

When we refuse to vote, our decision not to choose between the candidates is in itself a choice. The voter who abdicates his rights and responsibilities says to the professional politicians he so roundly criticizes: r"Make the choice for me."

The message the poltician receives is, "This turkey doesn't care who holds office. Wait until he sees the choice I'm going to give him in the next election."

I urge every District Liner who has threatened to "sit this one out" to remember this: If you really do fail to vote, you will be giving additional power to the politicians you oppose.

Don't do it.

Instead, begin keeping a tally of things that are being said and done by both sides. On election day, count up the pluses and minuses and vote for the lesser of the evils.

Or, if it gives you greater pleasure, vote against the greater of the evils, Either way, you must vote because the other side will.

Politics and politicians seldom conform to dictionary definitions.

Politics is definedas "the science and art of government." A politician is one who engages in such activity.

Enlightened participation in civic affairs ought to be regarded as one of man's noblest pursuits. Instead, the word politician is often used in a derogatory sense and carries with it implications of deception, lies, trickery, scheming, opportunism, and the use of public office for private gain.

There is great temptation to damn politicians as a class and say the entire "system" is rotten. I have done it myself on infrequent occasions, and it does make a fellow feel a little bit better temporarily. Few things are more soothing than having a scpaegoat available for unreasoning excoriation.

It grieves me to note, however, that politicians who turn out to be rascals are in approximately the same proportion as racals in the general population. The special environments in which each category exists may balance themselves out: Politicians may succumb to temptation more often exposed to it. The general population may be found out less often because the spotlight is less often upon it.

A yard goods clerk may have just as larcenous a nature as the most crooked of congressmen, but how many opportunities is a yard goods clerk given to decide what to do about a $50,000 bribe offer?

And how likely would it be that Woodward or Bernstein would investigate an unethical ribbon clerk?

What it boils down to, I suspect, is simply that we live in a corrupt era.

And because of the nature of representative government, not all the corrupt people among us can hold office at the same time, or would want to.