What makes this election year different from all other years is that no one seems to be discussing which candidate he's suupporting, only which candidate he's not voting for.

I went into a bar the other night, and the stranger on my left said, "Who are you going to vote against this year?"

"I haven't made up my mind yet," I said honestly. "All the candidates have given me a reason to vote against them, but I still have to wait until I see what they do in their last week."

"That makes sense. If you decide now you're going to vote against one of the three, you get committed. And if the other two say something, you might want to vote against them instead."

"Can I buy you a drink?" I said.

"That would be nice. This election really gives you a thirst. You know, I was against Carter a long time ago, and I was certain that I would not, vote for him. But then the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan and I said, 'Wait a minute, Lester. Reagan looks like a guy you could vote against just as easily as Carter.'"

"You can say that again. Personally, I didn't have anything against Reagan until he started campaigning for office. But after hearing some of the things he said, I thought to myself, 'This guy bears watching. He could get us into more trouble than Carter -- and that's saying a lot.'"

Lester warmed up to our conversation. "You know, I've never had anything against John Anderson because I didn't know who he was. I thought he'd fade away in New Hampshire. But now that he's a third-party candidate, I'm thinking about voting against him."

"If you do that," I said, "you'll be wasting your vote. Voting against Anderson will only get you Carter or Reagan."

"That's what my wife said," Lester told me. "A vote against Anderson is like no vote at all."

"Besides, it would endanger the two-party system. An American should either vote against a Republican or a Democrat in the upcoming election. At least we know where their parties stand on the issues."

Lester said, "It's my turn to buy you a drink. Now the way I see it, if we vote against Carter, we won't have four more years of what we've got now.

"But that doesn't mean we'll get anything better with Reagan. He's promising everything, but that doesn't mean he can deliver on any of it. A vote against Reagan could keep us out of a war."

"That's what Carter says, but Reagan says he isn't telling the truth. If I find out Carter is lying I'm going to vote against him."

Lester said, "It's your turn to buy me a drink."

I replied, "Sorry about that. It's too bad we can't split our vote."

"How's that?"

"I'd like to vote against Carter's economic policies and Reagan's foreign policies."

"That would solve it for us," Lester agreed. "But we have to vote against the man and not his policies."

"I'm afraid so. They sure put us in a heck of a spot this year. Remember how easy it was to vote against someone in a previous election?"

"Do I? I could decide who I was against right after the conventions and never waver until Election Day. Now I'm afraid to wake up in the morning, because I never know what the candidate I'm against at the moment has done the night before."