(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

Auntie Ruth was going to write of two-wheeled things this week. There’s the cardboard bicycle an Israeli fellow has invented and the self-balancing gyroscope motorcycle that got the BBC all frothy. Somehow, she was going to morph these biwheeled musings around how Jed Bartlet, president of the United States on The West Wing, was introduced by way of a bicycle accident—further proving the importance of bicycles—and therefore, and by the way, be sure to vote for Barack Obama.

A line of reasoning that looks straight enough to Ruthie—one gal’s zig is another gal’s zag—and likely no one else. But, hey, this is the last column before the election, and that’s the drum to beat, unless you’re a Mitt Romney person … and good luck with that.

But then Auntie Ruth got the weirdest note: “I hastily sent a bitchy letter about the [SN&R’s] alarmingly doofusy lukewarmth regarding matters political, mentioning in particular auntie ruth’s bizarre silence on the existence of the green party.”

Gosh. Yer Auntie had forgotten all about the Green Party these past weeks. A case of Ruthnesia. Nothing against Jill Stein, its presidential candidate, nothing at all. Just … nothing.

One could say, cynically, that third-party politics are one of America’s great romances, like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, or Al and Tipper Gore. But no. Better to be a third-party activist and be actively engaged than not; better to be looking ahead than not; better to have hope, however defined, springing eternal.

One can find any number of ways to despair about the status quo. This is the third party’s fundamental line of argument, and it’s a good one—witness all the support for Ron Paul, the periodic arm wave from the Peace and Freedom Party folks, etc. That neither major party can change a thing can be well argued, and the third-party folks Auntie knows are really, really good arguers.

Climate change might be the one cause that might someday tip the scale away from the stunting stability of the two-party system.

“Someday” being the operative word. Operative and essential.

This is politics, not art. The goal isn’t to have the prettiest politics, admired for its moral symmetries, shiny predictions, handsome righteousnesses, historic inevitabilities. No, politics can be butt ugly, you bet—a war without the guns, especially in these times that seem, on some days, to be as divided as any since the Civil War.

Next Tuesday is not an election to stay pretty for.

Obama in 2012.