Document:Interview with Pat Wright November 2022

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Interview with Pat Wright by Patrick Nicholson of the Libertarian Party of California Historical Preservation Committee.

November 8, 2022


Pat Wright was Chair of the Libertarian Party of California from 1991 to 1993. He ran for Congress in 1984, for the California State Assembly in 1986 and 1992, and for California Lieutenant Governor in 2002.

Born in San Diego, he grew up in the coastal North County. Early on he was influenced by his mother's support of Barry Goldwater.  He became disillusioned by President Nixon's corruption and the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam war. In the 1970's he became involved with the United Farmworker's Union where he realized that the government doesn't really help the poor. In junior college he was exposed to the World's Smallest Political Quiz and realized that he was a Libertarian.  He became active in Ed Clark’s 1980 presidential campaign and realized that he was pretty good at political organizing. As chair of the San Diego county LP - and later the California LP - he oversaw record membership growth.

What interested you in Barry Goldwater?

I was born in 1958. My mom was a Republican and I think she voted for Barry Goldwater. Although I don't know, it's hard to remember. But what were the choices? LBJ was big on the war in Vietnam, big on the war on poverty and kind of a warmonger. My mom naturally supported limited government, very practical, kind of leave me alone person and never expect help from the government.

I remember when I was really little, we went to the opening ceremony of the Cardiff Post office and there was Senator John Stull.  I remember that name.  They were talking about how he lost parts of Escondido - which is a working-class neighborhood - and gained in Rancho Santa Fe - which is one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. He was so happy that he had gained rich Republicans as opposed to poor Republicans. That did not set well with me. That's not how government is supposed to work. That's not a government of the people by the people. It's rich politicians grabbing territory.  I felt that this is not anything that I want to be associated with.

When Barry Goldwater and Karl Hess came into the picture, they were not your typical Republicans. They are more leave me alone. I hate to quote Chairman Mao but serve the people. But in a really genuine level.  For those that don't trust government and think that they're not really there to help you. I liked that about Barry Goldwater and other things about him are kind of scary.  The same thing with Ron Paul. I like Ron Paul, but they're kind of parts of him that are kind of scary. But I like taking that track.

It's fitting, today is Election Day.  If Barry Goldwater ran for President today, do you think he would do better?

No. The world has much less character and morals.  And evil has made big strides. People have very little understanding of socialism and it is so popular. I was reading on the plane, Ayn Rand’s ‘Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal’ and by the pool.  It’s like you have to put it in a brown rapper so you don’t get beat up.

Tell us about your involvement with the United Farm Workers

Well, I dropped out of high school because it was absolutely miserable. It was just a horrible experience for me. I hated being treated like I was an idiot, so I did drop out.  Both my parents worked for the school district and supported my decision.  I went to work for a greenhouse when I was 17. I landed in an all-Spanish speaking environment and they were trying to organize with the United Farm workers.  We got the second contract in San Diego to have representation.  I kind of have a negative opinion of unions right now because it's government unions, it's coercion, and it's a conflict of interest. But back then, these poor people had nothing going for them in the government. Now Cesar Chavez has a state holiday after him, but back then secondary pickets and secondary boycotts were illegal. The deck was stacked against poor working people.

Why do you think the government doesn't help poor people?

It only helps people who have connections.  It doesn't help the voiceless. It screws the voiceless. Well, it's kind of human nature, but that's when the government has too much power. You don't want the government to have a lot of power. Now the government has complete power.

What is the world's smallest political quiz?

When I was in junior college my instructor - and I can't remember his name - had such an impact on me. I think I was a registered libertarian at the time. I wrote it in - it was not a ballot recognized party. So, when you registered to vote as a Democrat or Republican, you would write it in - and I wrote in libertarian because they were just starting. Not being familiar with anything, I had a junior college professor who explained libertarianism and presented the quiz. I scored pretty highly libertarian and honestly impressed that Professor. I can't remember what it looks like. I can't remember his name. I still remember Senator John Stull from 1965, but I can't remember my junior college professor who introduced me to liberty.

What was the particular item on the quiz that led you to recognize that you were a libertarian?

Well, the quiz is not left or right - and I still get those quizzes you know, are you conservative or liberal, or moderate - which I am because I believe in fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. I mean - kind of a square peg in a round hole. There really was no place - and to this day - there is no place for people like that.

Describe Ed Clark's presidential campaign and why you wanted to get involved in that.

Well, he ran for governor in 1978 as an independent because libertarians weren’t on the ballot.  So, when he ran for president two years later, I called the Libertarian Party and asked how I could help.  This is a very good group of people working on a very good cause, so I very much enjoyed helping - when I could. We didn't expect him to win. But I voted for Ed Clark. I voted libertarian. There are a few elections where I did not vote for libertarian because I didn't think they were good people.

You said that through experience you recognized that you were good at organizing.  What led you to that belief?

Because other people were so bad at it. I was working in marketing, especially direct mail at the time and following the Libertarian Party of California.  When they had an inquiry, they contacted them once and then threw the list away. I’m like oh, hell, no, nobody joins on the first try.  So, we did a direct mail campaign that worked really well. Plus, I think I was more customer centric because they had this stupid thing where memberships were only good for the year and then they expired. Everybody expired on December 31st.  So, if you joined in November, you only got a month of membership.  There are just some pretty stupid things that I'm sorry libertarians are not the brightest people in the world sometimes. And I'm just more logical and customer centric. Although I couldn't run a meeting. Mark Hinkle had to run my meetings, and he's very good at it. So, there's things I can't do but there are things I can do.

What tips would you share with the people that are doing it now.

I never hear from the California LP.  I paid them my money and I haven't got one e-mail.  Like, were there any ballot recommendations from the California Libertarian Party? Nothing, so how do you take it seriously?

If the information was lost then I could say, sorry, the information was lost.  Or be embarrassed that we had to start over. Or did we miss you? Did we lose you? Sign up again. But everybody makes mistakes. I make more than most.

And if you don't acknowledge your mistakes, it's like when Gary Johnson. How he explained the Aleppo incident made perfect sense to me. I thought more highly of him that he owned up to the mistake and it was a very plausible mistake. Yeah, well what is Aleppo? It's like I don't know what an Aleppo is.  Poor Gary. That's their worst nightmare, but we're human.

In presidential politics you only get one shot and that's it.

Well, we’re still people, everybody makes mistakes.  So, we have to own up. Or you can hide them and if you hide them, they come back to haunt you.

When you were chair of the California Libertarian Party, why did you think there was a boom in membership?

Because we asked people to join. Has anybody asked me to join? So, when my membership expired, I heard nothing.  Nobody’s talking.  When I was chair, I contacted people.  I called them. I was on the phone and asked why you didn’t renew, and I listened to why they didn't. So, I invited them back. I even paid a few of their memberships.

So, it's really just good business sense then?

Treat people like they're important.  Everybody wants to feel valued. Not forgotten. So, if they can't even send you out a newsletter because they lost your membership, you have to make corrections.

You were chair of the Libertarian Party from ‘91 to ‘93. What has changed in the Libertarian Party since then?

Well, I didn't win reelection, which was a surprise but OK, that happens. The party paid a registration driver where you pay people to go out and register people libertarian. And I worked against that, saying it was a mistake. And it bankrupted the party. So, I got the collection calls and some of those calls were nasty. I would tell people if you're going to be nasty then you're going to the bottom of the list. I did not win election for a third term because the party was broke.

So, what do you think they should do now to increase membership?

They need to do something, have a plan, have a newsletter. There's just no action. The Libertarian Party of California is pretty invisible. I don't even know who the chair is. And follow up with paid members.

When your name came up - when we were talking about who to interview - ferrets were mentioned.   So, I have to ask about ferrets.

How I've wasted my life, it just goes to show. I know better than anybody in the state of California the lack of representation for the powerless. If you have an issue – and science and truth is on your side - you can still be overwhelmed by ignorance and malice. And that politicians - specially in California - is so ruled by special interests that you have no voice whatsoever.

In a sense, you may feel empowered because you can sort of laugh at the fools who are opposed to you. But it's discouraging that they have so much power. And if you don't have money, you have no influence in California - even if everything you know is the truth. Especially Republicans. I think there's a personality trait. Republicans will say that they will help you and the moment they hear an alternative view, you will not get a call back. And these Democrats are more honest. But they're wrong. They're in line with the Sierra Club and the Humane Society. But they're at least morally honest. But it has been a waste of life - it's been an education to take to the next life.

So what happened?

In brief, they're legal in 48 states. They are called a domestic ferret - even by the California Fish and Game. Domestic animals are legal per the Civil Code. They do get around that by saying that the domestic ferret has not been determined to be domesticated by the state of California as determined by the Fish and Game Commission. There's no record of any meeting or notes or any sort of deliberation on the fact they were lumped in as wild animals in 1932. All members of that family were classified as wild ferrets in the laboratory trade first, because they catch human influenza viruses, but the major breeders discovered a secondary market in the pet trade. So, they became quite popular as pets when the ‘Beastmaster’ came out in 1990. So about 6 states had banned them at that point. Only California and Hawaii are left now.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was in a movie called ‘Kindergarten Cop’, which had a ferret in it, so he ran for governor after Gray Davis - being the slime-weasel that he is - would never deal with us. Actually, he was elected because a libertarian ran in the race and siphoned off enough Republican votes for a Democrat to win. He's actually a very nice person and somebody on his staff owned a ferret. She introduced the bill, didn't get anywhere while Gray Davis was elected, but he was recalled. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected.  Schwarzenegger said if a ferret deal made it to his desk, he would sign it and we had nothing to worry about. And he vetoed it on the very last day at 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, which is typical of Republicans, because they don't keep their word. But there's no argument against ferret legalization. It used to be that the California Wild Waterfowl Association was our biggest opponents, but California being so political in the Fish and Game Commission, the hunters have lost the battle to the Humane Society. And the Humane Society is opposed to ferret legalization as well because of extreme environmentalists who are worried about the carbon footprint of a meat-eating pet. Plus, PETA - who bury deep in their website - say they're opposed to the concept of pet ownership in general because pet ownership is animal slavery.

That's pretty deep.

Sorry about that. This is where most people fall asleep. They're tuning out.

OK, let's change topics. You were a candidate for the US House of Representatives in 1984.  So, tell us about your experience. What happened?

Oh my God, I was really young. I was trying to finish college and they talked me into running. Duncan Hunter was - as they say - the military industrial complex. He was a whore for the military. He also bounced checks and had no moral scruples whatsoever. But being in the East county, he always won. Then his son came here and used his middle name, which I think was Duncan. He ran as Duncan Hunter, so people didn't realize that this was Hunter Junior. And Duncan Hunter Junior used campaign funds to live off of. So, he was selling himself. He threw his wife under the bus, blamed his wife as the treasurer. He was re-elected, but then he was indicted. He was heading for jail and Donald Trump pardoned him. So, it just goes to show you the low level of integrity in politics.  So, I should have won. East County would be better off of course. I could have sold my soul to who knows?

When you say East County, is that San Diego?

San Diego East County is military.

Oh, it's military.  So that’s why it is a Republican stronghold.

It's very public knowledge and they voted for him even though he's indicted.  When someone blames his wife, you know she's the one who has the checkbook.  He had, like, 300 bounced checks for the year and $25,000 in bounced check fees. And they reelected this guy for Congress. What is wrong with you.

When you were running, did you get to debate the Democrat and Republican?

There was one debate.  I was invited to go on KPBS. Gloria Penner was a nice, well thought of reporter.  But I missed the debate because I put the wrong date on it. I was so mad at myself. No, I was like crap, but I was like 20. I was really nervous, young, green. Not the old, seasoned guy like I am now.

Why do you think it's difficult for third party candidates in California – and in the United States - to break into the mainstream.

Well, first of all, in California they kind of wiped us off the ballot with the top two. But I think libertarians are their own biggest obstacles because they don't take themselves seriously. I used to get these reports of how a libertarian was going to win. It was all a fantasy race. It kind of played with numbers. Excuse me that libertarians don't play the game as it should be played.

With the ferret issue we worked with the City Council and got people elected that had the right idea. In the city of La Mesa, we got to know people and network. You have to build support. Libertarians don't do that. They're just kind of flaky and unaware of the outside world.

Unaware in what respect?

How politics works. That it's a lot of relationships. Some of these people are nice and some of them are evil. I’ve dealt with a lot of legislators in California trying to get ferrets legalized as pets. I know the ones like Brian Dahl would never return our call. And then there’s Brian Jones - the senator from East County. He's a really nice guy. He took our message seriously. He analyzed and came up with the wrong answer, but he asked his associates and so I kind of like Brian Jones and I respect him as a Republican state senator. But Brian Dahl blocked us. Maybe it's not the top issue but send it to a staffer and give us some reason why you can’t support it. Don't just block our emails and phone calls.

So, you think that libertarians need to reach out and have that personal touch?

They need to get involved in local politics.  Or get involved in politics and not just think our ideas are generally better. It's not going to entitle us to go to the top of the line.

Do you think money plays a part?

Politics is very unfair. Look at Ron Paul when he was going to win the Iowa caucus. They said on network television that if he won, they would just ignore the results. I think he came in second or a close third. But how can you say if someone is going to win, we're just going to ignore it.

Do you think money has a big role in the outcome of an election?

Yeah, I think now more than ever.  Look at the congresswoman here, Sarah Jacobs, whose grandparents own Qualcomm and they bought the election for her.  She’s actually not a bad congresswoman - seeing her in action. And from people I know on the Mesa City Council said that actually she's a very good person, but I couldn't vote for her. Every other commercial was Sarah Jacobs - with Barack Obama - running for Congress. It's like how many commercials do you need.  Her opponent was a socialist Democrat and I actually voted for her because she raised her own money. I should have left it blank, but I was so tired of Sarah Jacobs for Congress. You know money perverts everything politically. Which is kind of a libertarian paradox.

They will have difficulty running and raising money because they won't appeal to special interests.

True, so I don't have a solution for that. I'm not in charge anymore.  Politics is meaningless.  Look at all the propositions. They could put a proposition to dump chemicals in the ocean and call it the ‘be good to children measure’, and that's what people would see.  And if they put enough money behind it, who knows.

In relation to libertarian issues, how has the United States changed since you ran for Congress? What were the issues at that time, and what are the issues now?

Well, back then I was not a fan of Ronald Reagan. But as time has gone by, I think more highly of him.  You can see the socialism that's crept into our political consciousness and the Marxism.

I'm an older person, we work very hard. We've got rental properties and when COVID came in evictions were banned. We had one tenant who the other tenants complained about. She didn't pay the rent.  She wouldn't communicate with us, so we started the eviction process. And then our lovely Supervisor Nathan Fletcher - to protect the public - banned all evictions. We've paid $8,000 in attorney fees to getting the eviction going. And it was banned.  I don't think that would have happened 20 years ago because people had a better understanding of the free market system.

Now the free-market system is a dirty concept for most Americans and most young people. I went to the local Community College to represent Gary Johnson. There was no local San Diego organization, so they called me because I put up the San Diego for Gary Johnson web page. And so, I got a call to speak at a junior college political science class.  The students thought that Venezuela was the best country to live in, followed by Haiti. And I thought, how do you deal with a consciousness like that. None of the young people had any idea of what they wanted to do with their lives. They were just going to get by, day by day and they wanted to go to Venezuela and Haiti.

I guess you have to start somewhere.

I hate to be the old person. We have a joke in this house: ‘get off our AstroTurf’ as you sit there with a hose in the front yard like the cranky old people in the neighborhood. It just seems to me that younger people have no idea of the possibilities that their life holds and no idea what they want to do, and they're just drifting off to socialism and Marxism, like Nathan Fletcher who doesn't understand the concept. We will never invest in rental properties in California ever again because we're treated like the enemy.  Now they're saying that landlords need to rent to homeless people. It's like landlords are bad because they're not providing homeless people with homes. Well, we have to charge more rent because we had $8,000 in legal bills to evict someone who wouldn't pay their rent. That money is down the drain, so we have to increase their rents. They're doing damage and the housing crisis is quite severe in the whole state.  There is no understanding, and the economic illiteracy is absolutely astounding.

Given that, do you think it's more important for the Libertarian Party to look at education of the populace in terms of politics or to get elected?

You have to do the right thing first of all, because the public can spot a phony. Our platform and our philosophy are quite sound. It's completely sound: free market economics, leave people alone and let them live their lives as they wish, and generally everybody will be in a better position. But they're taught in school something completely opposite. It's a big battle and you don't have to win to win. You have to introduce the argument to win and get people thinking, but people don't like to think.

Who are some of the people that you worked with at that time?

There's a lot of good people. I don't know the libertarians currently. Like I said, I don't even know who's chair.  I mean, some of them are kind of weird. They go off into conspiracy theories and kind of stuff like that, and I tune out.

Do you have a theory of liberty?

I'm kind of a soft-core libertarian.  I remember at one of the libertarian conventions they had this proposal to support the ability of people to have what they called ‘cop killing bullets’ at the time. Armor piercing bullets that can bust through bulletproof vests. And AR15 rifles. I really don't see why we need to sell them to people under 21. When 18-year-olds are usually the ones who are doing these horrible deeds.  So, I don't always agree with strict libertarian dogma, as I call it.  I think that's probably why I challenge and question a lot of the libertarian tenants. But I still believe that government governs best that governs lease, and we don't trust the government to help us.  People’s motives - especially those in the government - are usually to serve themselves and not the people.

Who are some of the libertarian thinkers that you admire? You mentioned reading Ayn Rand at the beginning of the interview?

Yeah, Ayn Rand I really liked. I read ‘Capitalism the Unknown Ideal’. There are three chapters that I couldn't read. I could not finish. They were so bad. One of them was by Nathanial Branden. Although, she had a lot of drama which was kind of distracting. Ron Paul is a big hero.  I don't read anything about Gary Johnson, but I'm totally a Gary Johnson libertarian.

Explain what is a Gary Johnson libertarian?

There was a debate, and they were talking about the need for driver’s licenses.  Libertarians like to outdo themselves in stupidity, so they asked Gary Johnson if he believed in driver's licenses.  He said that I do want some sort of proof that you know how to operate a car before you get on the highway. And all these other libertarians were like, oh, that's ridiculous. We don't need government. Like it's so stupid. I don't want to be on the road with people who have no driving ability and no competency. So yes, I don't think a driver's license is the leading factor.  But come on people, we have bigger issues to deal with.

Given that today is Election Day, what is your analysis of the current state of California?

I left most of the ballot blank. Actually, I got a voter recommendation from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. They emailed me three or four times. I never heard anything from the Libertarian Party of California on who they're voting for. I can't vote for Brian Dahle and definitely wouldn't vote for Gavin Newsom. I don't think he's an evil spawn or anything like that. I don't think we have to insult him; we just have to say I don't agree with his politics. So, I left that blank. I voted for a few Republicans and that was kind of painful. They had to disavow Donald Trump. I think Donald Trump is the biggest threat to liberty that we face as a nation. And any Republican like Kevin Kiley who won't disavow does not deserve our support. And I voted no on every proposition, because all the propositions are written for the benefit of special interests who distort what they're really all about.

It almost makes you think that why should you even bother?

I've never missed any election, no matter how minor, but I remember they had a special election in San Diego, and they gave me the ballot and I signed it and returned it. They said you forgot to vote, and I said no, there's nobody worth voting for.  But I wanted to be on record as voting.

In some of the ballot races you could write in a candidate, so I wrote ‘none of the above’.  All of the others I just left blank.

Yeah, they do that for special election for the state assembly. And I followed them too. I watched the debate. I read all the material. And actually, I worked one of them. I asked how you feel about the ferret issue and they never responded. So, I wrote in ‘none of the above’ which you know just goes in the garbage.

Do you have a proud libertarian moment that you want to share?

When I gave up. I was winning against Kim Goldsmith for state chair.  I was thinking that I could probably beat him on a write in vote, but I realized what the hell, this is his. And I said, ‘thanks everybody, what an honor and a pleasure it was to be chair for two years and good luck to Kim’. I think I got a standing ovation.  There are times when you have to leave the stage.

What do you think that libertarians should be concerned about? What do you think libertarians should support?

I think they should be out there. I thought, who is there to vote for? Today you've got the evilness of the Republican Party, who are going to destroy the democracy. Or you have the incompetence of the Democratic Party, which is going to destroy the economy. The possibility of memes going viral are endless. I haven't seen anything - except what people have done as individuals – from the Libertarian Party of California. I haven't seen anything at all. They're not even trying. They're not even in the game.

Americans are very hungry for an alternative to Donald Trump. I mean, you could not make this person up. You couldn't? No, no it wouldn't be credible. And then we have Gavin Newsom as a competent big government, economy, and individual liberty destroyer. It's just collectivism at its most horrible 1984 or even worse. And where's the Libertarian party? I haven't seen anything. I mean, I work for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Even though I'm volunteering to work for them I think I could do better for them. I don't know how incomplete they were. But at least they're out there trying.

Since the last time we talked is there anything that you wanted to add to your biography?

No.  I think that libertarians take themselves too seriously. I mean Harry Brown’s ‘How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World’ is a good starting point, if you have to live free, even under tyranny.

Do you think that's good advice for young libertarians?

Are there any? Sorry, I was looking at pictures from the Libertarian Party website and everybody looked a little bit older than me. This isn't good at all. So, it's really hard to address young people from this age. I mean everything has just changed, but you have to learn.

What do you think libertarians could do to attract younger people?

I'm not sure, I haven't done so well in the Ferret Club. But I mean, there is Tik Tok because Tik Tok is for young people.  Facebook is not going to die, but it is limited and has plateaued. Twitter is in turmoil, social media wise. YouTube's always really good. The Reason Foundation puts out really good videos. But what is the Libertarian Party doing? They don't have a plan, much less fulfilling it.

I think those are excellent observations. That was the whole purpose of doing these interviews is to get different people's perspectives. And if the powers that be listen to those opinions, then maybe we can get better.