Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Open Letter to Houston's Mayoral Candidates

Last week the Chronicle reported that you have canceled your remaining forums. Political consultant Marc Campos told the paper:
They haven't distinguished themselves. Everybody pretty much knows where they're at on all these issues. They've been asked the same questions over and over and over, and they've all stuck to their own party line, so it's a little bit of, this is too much.

One of the cardinal principles of advertising is the Unique Selling Proposition. This principle holds that an advertiser must present a unique offer to consumers to entice them to switch brands. In the context of a mayoral race, you must present voters with unique ideas--ideas that differ from your opponents. Otherwise, why should they vote for you rather than one of your opponents?

Your positions on the issues are essentially the same. Each of you advocates more government controls and regulations, differing only on the specific details of your positions. Not only does this fail to distinguish you from your opponents, it is offering more of the very causes that are creating the problems you allegedly seek to address.

You could truly distinguish yourself, and offer tangible solutions, by recognizing that the only legitimate function of government is the protection of individual rights. Government should not be "protecting" neighborhoods, but the rights of the individuals who comprise those neighborhoods. Government should not be promoting "quality of life", but the freedom of individuals to pursue their own values. Government should not be pandering to the interests of groups, but protecting the personal freedom of individuals.

Such a position would allow you to offer truly unique solutions. You could solve the city's budget deficit, reduce taxes, and stimulate the economy. You could eliminate controversies like light rail and the Ashby High Rise. In short, you would have a specific principle to guide your position on any particular issue--a principle that would provide consistency and eliminate the endless parade of special interest groups seeking government favors for their pet project.

From a campaign perspective, there are other benefits to adopting this position. Your message would not need to be changed depending on the group to which you are speaking. Individual rights apply to all individuals--black and white, Anglo and Hispanic, gay and straight, preservationists and developers, employers and employees. You could promote diversity--which I don't hold as a value--because the protection of individual rights allows for each individual to pursue his values without interference from others, so long as he respects their mutual rights.

You might think that my proposal isn't practical. But practicality depends upon what one wishes to practice--the results that one seeks. If one seeks a peaceful, vibrant community, then individual freedom is eminently practical. Indeed, it is the only means to that end. If you seek government control over the economy and the lives of Houstonians, then I would agree that my proposal is impractical.

You might think that my proposal is too radical, that voters are not interested in their personal liberty. To this I say, the legitimate anger being expressed in town hall meetings and at tea parties is ample evidence to the contrary. Citizens are angry that their freedom is threatened, and they will respond positively to a candidate who offers to recognize and protect individual rights.

I doubt that I need to explain to you the importance of the position you seek. The mayor of Houston holds immense responsibilities, the most important being the protection of individual rights. As mayor you will be faced with difficult and complex issues. Holding clear principles will allow you to tackle these issues with relative ease. As mayor you will be asked to lead our city through uncertain times. Holding clear principles will allow you--and Houstonians--to move forward with confidence.

The most important principle you can hold is the sanctity of individual rights. Adopting this principle will not only help you get elected, but will also help you lead the city. Adopting this principle, and implementing it consistently, will require courage and conviction. But these are the qualities of a true leader. Are you up to the task?

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