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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Extracting Splinters or No Mathematician Need Apply

For the second time in my life I have been asked to leave a volunteer organization. Ouch. The chairman of our local GOP splinter group, the NXC GOP, has requested that I never again attend one of their meetings. This has been the occasion of much hilarity at home and in my county GOP organization.

The first time I was evicted from a political organization, I was a young assistant professor in my first tenure track faculty position. I joined a group of conservative faculty members who met regularly to discuss politics. The leader of the group was a chain smoking Polish emigre professor, who was obsessed with communism and the USSR. We met in his house just a few blocks from campus, its walls yellowed by the never ending plumes of smoke rising from his cigarettes. I was as happy to discuss the USSR as the next person, but it was not my sole interest in life. I pushed to broaden our discussion and activism (in this group, I recall the activism never graduated beyond tongue wagging) to include other issues. In particular, I broached the issue of educational vouchers. Professor Chimney was initially casually dismissive of my suggestion but was subsequently shocked to see that most of the group expressed interest. At the meeting he suggested I research vouchers and lead a discussion at our next meeting. A few days later he called me up and said he did not want 'country club' Republicans like me at his meetings and invited me to leave his group, which I did. Never before or since have I heard the claim that interest in educational vouchers was a defining feature of 'country club' Republicans. Nonetheless, as the group never actually did anything other than talk, I did not mind my forced exit.

Two decades later I have been dismissed from another political group. I have been attending meetings of the Northern X County GOP (NXC GOP). The chairwoman of the NXC GOP is a former campaign director for the loser in the GOP congressional primary in my district. As I have written before, her candidate was an unappealing nativist whose possible nomination I considered harmful to the local GOP. I believe that her goal is to create an organization which can rapidly transform into a campaign organization for him should the current GOP nominee lose. She is hostile to efforts to aid the duly nominated candidate and always structures the NXCGOP's efforts so that they exclude our congressional candidate. With less than a month and a half left before the election, her agenda for our last meeting was the recruitment of candidates for the 2011 municipal elections. (She had neglected to observe that half her membership did not even live in the city limits and therefore could not even vote in the municipal elections.) I have been attending these meetings with the goal of keeping the group in the GOP camp. I frequently announce opportunities for its members to participate in canvassing and other services for our duly nominated candidates. I did not believe the chair wished to make her hostility to the nominated congressional candidate explicit to the group's members, who are not generally partisans for the loser. This left me with room to promote our nominee. Last Thursday, I apparently exhausted her patience. At the beginning of the meeting, I observed that I had not seen many members of the group canvassing on Saturday mornings. The room turned to ice, but little more was said on the subject, except for the reasonable observation that many of the members were working on other campaigns (but for 2012?). I thought no more of it until the next morning when I received an email :
Thank You for showing an interest in our organization. Regretfully, you and the
NXC GOP are not a good fit. We respectfully request that you not
attend any future NXC GOP meetings.

Oh well, at least she didn't accuse me of being 'country club'. My family and the county GOP have been ribbing me ever since. My family observes that I am the only one they know who was threatened with violence by a high school teacher after disagreeing with him on a school advisory committee. So, perhaps my willingness to disagree with people (endemic in the mathematics community) also played a role in my latest expulsion. Luckily, I can counter with the observation that I was not expelled until I brought my wife to a meeting. (She attended her first NXC GOP meeting last Thursday). Perhaps her attendance precipitated my forced departure. She has agreed to test this hypothesis if the county organization gives me too many assignments. If I become overburdened, she has offered to attend her first county meeting and see if this leads to expulsion number 3.

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