While the United States has been struggling through a dreary, seemingly endless electoral process to choose its next president, Mikhail Gorbachev got himself the job in the Soviet Union in just one weekend.

He simply waited until his chief rival left town on vacation. Then he called a surprise Central Committee meeting, persuaded President Andrei Gromyko to retire, and got himself elected president unanimously.No time-consuming visits to high schools and flag factories, no vapid political commercials or embarrassing groveling for contributions.

Gorbachev has a smaller audience to win over than do George Bush and Michael Dukakis - just the narrow power elite that controls the USSR.

No one ever said the U.S. electoral process was efficient - it's anything but. And it can no longer even be said, if it ever could, that the process produces the best possible leaders.

The decline of political parties and rise of television in the past 30 years have too often turned campaigns into farces and candidates into caricatures.

But, despite all our problems, the candidates still have to campaign to us - the public - and we still have the power to affect the process when we care enough to do so.

So for all its efficiency, we'll pass on the Soviet way of choosing leaders and do it our way.