Are you ready for November?

If you’re like a lot of Californians, you woke up the morning after the March 2 primary election much like one wakes up following three days of dedicated barhopping on the wrong side of Seattle.

You know how it goes, sort of shaking your head and asking yourself with painful slowness, “What have I done? Why did I do it?”

Sure, you walked into that voting booth feeling pretty confident that you knew the issues and the players.

After 15 minutes or so of staring at the 21st-century electronic voting screen, though, it’s likely you found yourself wondering if you’d made the right choices.

By the next morning, things were getting even woozier, weren’t they?

It all seemed so simple and, yet…

Even worse, we’re going to have go through all this again in November and that’s the election that can give us shakes and night sweats for the next four years if we’re not careful.

(OK, everybody who voted for Richard Nixon or Gray Davis, raise your pale, clammy hands.)

Despite the fact that studies show Americans prefer to get their election advice from Comedy Central and slightly inebriated radio talk show hosts rather than the news media, I’m going to give you a few valuable tips that should help you avoid the morning-after-election blues.

*   First of all, don’t put your faith in the political parties – or all your politicians in one basket, or something like that.If you vote a strict party line, you’re likely to elect a whole mess of Democrats or Republicans, neither of which have done a helluva lot of good in the past 40 years. Vote instead for an individual you believe in or for one who, at least, has promised to put a chicken in every garage or who has the coolest wristwatch.

*   Follow the money, too.  Look for the candidate who’s spent the most money on his or her campaign and then vote for somebody else. Let’s face it, if some goofball has to spent $171 million on an election campaign, he’s probably covering something up.

*   Beware the candidate who seems more interested in his opponent’s past or qualifications than he does his own. Either this guy has a serious identity problem or he’s trying to divert attention from his own shortcomings – or his most recent grand jury indictment.

*   View with suspicion any political action group with a name like “People for the Reform of Honesty in America’s Environment for God and Our Neighborhoods.”

Groups like this invariably are made up of a small, but wealthy, special interest coalition whose goals are exactly the opposite of what their name implies. The aforementioned organization, for example, would probably be lobbying for the right to dump radioactive neighborhood churches into the ocean without so much as a toxic-church-disposal permit.  And the spending warning for individual politicians applies to political action groups as well.

If “Americans Who Really Care About Education and Safe Salmon Fisheries” has to spend $213 million to convince the voters of their sincerity, they’re probably planning to burn our schools to the ground during the biggest damned salmon barbecue ever conducted west of the Mississippi.

Really. I wouldn’t kid you on something as important as politics, amigos…

Originally published March 21, 2004