I've just about decided to vote for John Anderson. And I really don't give a damn if it turns out that the Anderson vote will elect Ronald Reagan.

Jimmy Carter is a failed president. I voted for him last time because I thought he offered a better possibility of useful change than did nice-guy Jerry Ford. But Carter has been a total disappointment: his relations with Congress have been terrible; his domestic econimics disastrous to the bulk of Americans; and his foreign policy weak and vacillating to the detriment of our standing abroad and, most important, among our own citizens. He is the least competent of the eight presidents I've seen since I first came to Washington.

Worst of all, Carter now has shown himself to be a small, mean-minded, do-anything-to-win candidate, a man whose claim of integrity is largely facade. His insinuations against Reagan of racism and an intent-to-war went beyond the limits of politics; his refusal to debate Kennedy and now Reagan and Anderson demonstrates sheer political opportunism. He should be turned out of office -- pronto.

Granted, Ronald Reagan is no great shakes as an alternative. But he is neither a racist nor warmonger and certainly not vicious. He's a man with simplistic ideas about the economy and the world, a yearner for the past that never was. Despite his campaign agility, he is too old to be president. If he is elected, I expect to see a George Bush presidency within the next eight years. Bush, though quite conservative, at least knows his way around Washington and abroad.

Reagan has said some far-right and far-out things in years past and some even lately; but I consider his record as governor of California far more important. Democrats there who dealt with him overwhelmingly term him a pragmatist, accommmodating to the realities and political facts of life. When he ran into an immovable object, he was no irresistible force.

The best argument the Carter people have had going for them concerns potential Reagan appointments to the Supreme Court. But now comes Joseph L. Rauh Jr., father figure of American civil liberties, to say in a statement co-signed by liberal Democratic factotum Arthur Schlesinger Jr.:

"Do we really believe Reagan Supreme Court appointments would be the end of the world or is this another Bob Strauss effort to panic the liberals he's always laughed at? We think the latter. Presidential Supreme Court appointments are never predictable (Eisenhower appointed two of the greatest liberal justices of our lifetime Warren and Brennan). But assume the worst and assume, too, that a Democratic Senate would fail to reject bad judicial apples. . . . The difference between the 1980s and the 1930s when the Republican-appointed Supreme Court tried to thwart the New Deal is that the intervening years have seen an acceptance by all members of the court of the federal power that was challenged in the 1930s . . . " Rauh adds that he overlooked another great Republican appointee, Justice Benjamin Cardoza, for whom he once clerked.

What about John Anderson himself? Like Reagan, he has learned from holding public office that some of his earlier actions (putting Christ into the Constitution, for one) were ridiculous or worse. Simply said, Anderson is a congressman who has grown greatly as he has moved toward the middle of our political spectrum. He certainly has the sharpest mind of the three candidates.

I don't give him a prayer of election, however; yet that makes no difference. A vote for Anderson can be cast with a clear conscience of voting for "the best man." It can be cast, too , in the knowledge that if it helps make him enough of a spoiler that he denies Carter critical electoral votes and thus throws the election to Reagan, well, that's not going to be a national catastrophe.

In 1980 you simply have to start from square one: Carter the failed incumbent who just isn't of presidential caliber. True, some of his appointments, especially to the judiciary, have been good in terms of breaking barriers to women, blacks, Hispanics. But that isn't enough to deserve a second term.

I have no idea whom Reagan might appoint to what, but California Democrats credit him with quite good choices as governor, on the whole, and they say he gave his choices a generally free hand at administration. Some of those who are now advising him on campaign issues have been in Washington slots and performed well enough. In short, the bogeyman argument doesn't work with me on Reagan appointments, if he were to be elected.

In the end, the chief thing is for voters to show themselves, and the world, that they know a bummer when they see one. His name is Jimmy Carter. And if enough of us feel that way, we'll also show that we know what to do about it, and that we're not afraid of the consequences.