This week we vote, and soon the pundits and polls will be explaining what we meant by our votes. I shall ignore these Olympian explications, and I suggest that you do too. Their very tendentiousness and opportunism is one of the reasons that our political system is so abundant with humbug.

The champions of nuclear freeze will claim that the elections signify thumpingly that large numbers of Americans are bathing in the enlightenment and taking on the world vision of the late Mohandas Gandhi, vegetarian and insomniac. Those who favor the extravagances of our milch cow state will insist that the voters now want Ron to inflate the economy and to resume the spending splurge that for so long has given so many an illusory sense of prosperity as the dollars -- billions and billions of them all crisp and green and increasingly valueless -- fluttered down from the federal bosom onto our outstretched palms.

Yes, this will be a week of solemn analysis and dubious prognostication. In point of fact all that one really needs to know to explain recent American elections is that Americans generally vote against candidates and policies. They rarely vote for anyone or anything.

They do this because they have been told, year in and out, that what they are for, they simply cannot have. Stable prices, lower taxes, jobs and relief from the spreading barbarism of diseased minds are all matters that the mainstream politicians swear are out of their hands. Thus, the voter in his frustration casts his ballot against the greater of two evils and has done with the disagreeable business.

I am in sympathy with the voter. The pols do indeed lie. Most are timorous poseurs. And this week they and their super-parasites, the pundits, will be exploiting our frustrations for their own paltry ends. Yet, I am not at ease with the voters' indifference; there is underlying it a sense that the pols can bring us no greater harm. They can. Remember the two world wars, the French Revolution, Prohibition?

Politicians can cause enormous harm, a truth we neglect at our own peril. Does anyone doubt that we take lightly the politicians' capacity for catastrophe? Consider this. It is the American's habit of mind to view drinking as a more serious matter than voting. Consider the facts. It is now malum prohibitum in many states for anyone under the age of 21 to drink, and where it is not public opinion wishes that it were. Yet minors can vote even at the unripe age of 18. Think of it. This week we allow into the voting booths people we do not allow on a bar stool.

They will make judgment on nuclear strategy and dozens of other complex issues. They will vote for congressmen, senators, and many more aspirants to high public office, including school board and sheriff. Nonetheless we do not trust them with a glass of wine or even a light aperitif.

The message is clear: we assume that voting is harmless and that it takes more judgment to imbibe a mild schooner of beer than to decide between a smiling Democrat and a frowning Republican. Well, if this be true, why have the great philosophers devoted so much thought to politics and so little to boozing. After all, Plato gave us "The Republic" not "The Saloon."

Doubtless where there is drinking there are drunks, and drunks have caused mankind mischief and tragedy, but think of the atrocities brought down on us by voters. Remember Nov. 2, 1976. That was the day on which 51 percent of them imposed Jimmy Carter on us, and the Great Republic still has not recovered.

Or consider the long years during which we have sent to Washington economic illiterates who have debauched the currency, hobbled our economy with idiotic regulations and squandered the national treasure on self- serving and nonsensical legislation that will be around for years.

The time is long past when we could sit back and assume that the pols have done us as much mischief as possible. A worse fate than 10 percent unemployment could darken our future if the wrong crowd gets into power. Yet evidence abounds that we see our votes as harmless gestures.

In California just last month, the secretary of state ruled that even the criminally insane can vote, thus extending the franchise to the patients at the Patton State Hospital for the criminally insane. In the main these are mentally disordered sex offenders found to be unfit for trial or insane at the time of their crime. Will the patients of Patton State Hospital be allowed in the voting booth alone? The procedure could prove very time-consuming.

This week politics will sicken a lot of very civilized Americans, I know. Nonetheless I urge them to be more public-spirited. Take politics more seriously and weigh the vote more carefully. Remember what the German voters did to Weimar.