AS soon as the television news people dispose of the New Hampshire primaries, we folks across the line in Maine stop laughing and hold our caucuses. We don't get the undeserved notoriety that is given the Granite State hooraw, but we watch the TV to find out what we did and then go back to cribbage.
So a couple of days after the television anchormen gave our Maine results minor attention, Mary Merrill got me on the telephone. Mary's running for school board this town meeting, so she has taken an interest in politics, and she said, "If we hold a caucus next Tuesday, can you come?"
"A caucus?" I queried. "I thought we held the caucus the other day."
"Yes," said Mary. "We did."
"I thought so. What did we do?"
Mary said, "Well, we didn't do anything. Nobody came."
There you have, I affirm, a complete and thorough evaluation of the primaries and caucuses that prevail across this TV'd nation every four years.
"Why would we hold a repeat?" I asked.
"Well, the state committee thinks we ought to be on record. They tell me we can caucus any time we want to, and some of us can make it all right next Tuesday. Can you?"
"Afternoon or evening?"
"Doesn't matter. Any time you say. We're adjustable."
"I guess Charles and Evelyn, and Will and Martha, and maybe Fred and Freda. And me and David. When would you have a minute?"
"I don't know. You caught me by surprise. I haven't been thinking about caucuses. What would we do?"
"I guess we can do about anything we want. The lady from the state committee is going to call me back, and I'll ask her."
"Will we be on TV?"
"Well, I could rent a machine and make a tape."
I told Mary I wasn't all that keen, but if the weather was congenial I might make it. Mary said, "Maybe it's not such a hot idea."
"Maybe not," I said.
It's frightening to contemplate the United States of America hanging by such a slender thread.
All of which makes me wonder if we didn't have a better way back before television solved all problems.
Maybe we can chuckle about William T. Cobb again, who was a governor of Maine. Born in Rockland, he studied law, became president of several local enterprises - a wholesale grocery company, a bank, a railroad, a limestone quarry, and the Good Templar folks.
When he became mayor of Rockland, the governorship of Maine would be his next goal, and it was in 1901 or so that a reporter on the Rockland Gazette popped the question.
"Mr. Mayor," he asked, "are you going to run for governor?"
Mayor Cobb seemed surprised at the question. He hesitated. Then he shook his head. "Oh, my gracious, no!" he said. "It's not my turn!"
Mayor Cobb's turn came in 1904, and he was elected by a plurality of 76,000 votes - a complimentary tally at that time. How much better that was than our new method of letting every would-be do-gooder lambaste us with persiflage and piffle for weeks on end, spending vast sums to offend our intelligence, and rendering our tranquillity asunder with banality and bombast until, as the lady said, nobody cares and nobody comes.
How much better if these jokers would sit quietly and await their turns.
In addition to his political preferment, Mayor William T. Cobb gained another honor to reward his patience. He was before my time, so I never knew him, but well after his term in office I learned about him and held him in esteem and respect. We, in Maine, had steamers white and gold that rolled down, rolled down, to Boston, and on the regular Boston-to-Rockland run the vessel was named the "Governor Cobb." After business in Boston, a wayward Mainer could go aboard in late afternoon and have breakfast in Maine. I voyaged with Governor Cobb several times before he became extinct.