Guest Editorial: What I Learned from Jaime O. Perez By Michael Hale
Editor’s note: The following editorial was submitted by Michael Hale.
“I’m a lightning rod.” says Jaime Perez, a mayoral candidate and political activist in El Paso. Jaime O. Perez has been an active participant in politics in El Paso for many years. He served as Policy Analyst for City Representative Eddie Holguin and as Chief of Staff for El Paso County Judge. Mr. Perez has a number of degrees in political science and economics from various universities including Brandies University, the University of California Berkeley, University of Texas Austin, and earned a Certificate for Community Building from the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University and studied at the Colegio de Mexico, “It’s like the Harvard of Mexico” he offered. Mr. Perez is currently the vice-chair of the Libertarian Party in El Paso.
I met Mr. Perez on Facebook, through the El Paso Liberty Group page which I co-administer. He was recommended to me by another one of our administrators. When I found out who he was, I knew he was someone I wanted to know and someone from whom I wanted to learn. From his website, I learned of his vision – “A world in which everyone who wants to make a living, feed, and educate their family can do so,” his mission – “To promote a local government that minimizes restrictions on free enterprise as a method of creating jobs and building wealth,” and his values “Individual liberty, respect for the rule of law, and dignity, and kindness towards all.”
I sat down with him in one of the many places he works — Denny’s.
It is Sunday afternoon and the church crowd is out to breakfast. It is loud with clanging of silverware on plates, drink glasses, and conversations. It is somewhat dark and the smell of bacon, eggs, pancakes with syrup, and coffee permeate the air. I am both honored and excited to have the opportunity to talk with someone I consider one of the greatest thinkers in town. It is difficult to keep my focus on the assignment as I want to glean as much wisdom as I can. We share a coffee and a piece of cheesecake.
I learned many things that day about how Mr. Perez sees his own activity. Below are some of these.
As a political activist, one of the primary things he does is research. His research consists primarily of reading articles on the internet, and blogs from such people as Michael Hudson, Steve Keen, and Greg Mannarino. All of whom are economists who espouse the Austrian School of Economics’ principles of sound money, small government, and free markets. As a candidate for mayor, he also keeps up with his fellow candidates by reading their web sites and getting to know their policy biases and prescriptions.
Jaime Perez has also been a political consultant behind the scenes. He advises political candidates as well as sitting representatives one-on-one. The work environment is usually in his home office where he does his research, and any venue, such as Denny’s, Village Inn, or anywhere else a group will meet who invite him to speak. His interactions are usually with politicians and other activists. There isn’t really anyone who hires a political activist, but once in awhile someone can get lucky.
There really is no set of qualifications for a political activist, although a good understanding of the issues is a must. Volunteering for political campaigns, activist groups, and directly acting on an issue are the best ways to prepare for this job, but then again, that is what a political activist does. It is essential to constantly research the issues, derive policy recommendations, and constantly refine your skills of persuasion.
The job is not very physically demanding, but does require a lot of time. Mr. Perez says the amount of time required is up to one’s level of commitment. Work is always taken home, since his home is his office. Writing skills are essential in this function since an activist must convey information to others he works with and to the public as well. It is very important to know how to present a position convincingly. Mr. Perez doesn’t find the job very stressful, although it can be, especially when taking a contrarian position. The personal assaults can get quite awful.
Being a political activist usually doesn’t pay. In fact, it usually costs the person for membership dues or to go to conventions. The reward is the personal satisfaction of knowing you are making a difference. In politics, it is very important to earn your place. It is important to know the issues you are championing or challenging. “You have to pay your dues” he says. You must be able to present your case and rebut arguments against your position. You must put in the time and effort to become someone who is credible. To Mr. Perez, it is all worth it because he is making changes for the better if only by having some influence over the process or policy debates.
There aren’t really that many people who choose a life of political activism, which is unfortunate because what politicians do while in office affects everyone’s life in almost every way. Mr. Perez highly encourages young people to get involved, to run for office, to be engaged.
Being a political activist is a hard and thankless cause to undertake, but well worth the effort. How great could our city, state and nation be if everyone was involved? We take our liberties for granted and often drown ourselves in entertainment that dulls our minds and keeps our focus off of what is happening that affects our lives. I found Jaime O. Perez to be a very intelligent, thoughtful, and wise man. El Paso is very fortunate to have him fighting for her. I hope that I may be found worthy to stand with him in his cause for liberty.