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  • Reggie Peralta

Interview: LPOC Volunteer Matthew Mariscal on the North OC Libertarian Club's Winter Clothing Drive

"SWAT team prepared" by Oregon Department of Transportation is licensed under CC BY 2.0. / Resized and cropped from original

COVID-19 may still be putting a damper on outings and social gatherings, but libertarians were still able to organize an event for a good cause this past November! Devised with the cold seasonal weather in mind, the North Orange County Libertarian Club held a winter clothing drive at La Palma Park to help the homeless of Anaheim. With the event lasting from morning until noon on Sunday, November 29th, the volunteers collected a healthy amount of donations and ensured that some of the less fortunate among us were able to stay warm this winter.

This isn't the first time that Matthew Mariscal, an LPOC volunteer and the organizer behind this drive, has put together an event to benefit the community. In addition to volunteering with the Libertarian Party of Orange County, he helped organize a similar drive while he was still in high school. I recently had the privilege of speaking with him about both events, and we ended up talking about how he became interested in electoral politics as well as how this event contradicts the widely-held perception of libertarians as selfish individuals who don't care about others. It was a fun chat but also a promising one in that it's encouraging to know that there are engaging, new voices like Matt's ready to advance the cause of liberty in Orange County.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a college student at Cal State University, Long Beach. I became a Libertarian when I was in high school, getting involved with the Party in 2016. Now I don’t really like to describe myself as this - well, I don’t like when anyone describes themselves as this, but it’s basically what I am - but I’m also an activist. I care a lot about my community as well as local and national politics. That’s really who I am, just a libertarian college student who is trying to do something good for the world.

How did you become interested in libertarianism and politics?

Well, my first exposure to libertarian ideas came from my dad. He was very wary of government, didn’t trust any politicians, and one day he said to me, “I want you to check this guy out, his name is Ron Paul. I like him but I want you to look into him and figure out what you think about him for yourself.” I was only in eighth grade, but I was already into this stuff so I searched for Ron Paul on YouTube. The first thing that came up was him debating Rudy Giuliani about 9/11, and that was enough to change my life and make me a libertarian!

I started getting involved with electoral politics in 2016, and it’s interesting because the guy who is most responsible for motivating me to participate in local politics was my ethnic studies teacher in high school. Now, anyone who knows anything about ethnic studies knows that it’s a very progressive course, and he wasn’t a libertarian at all. But even though I was kind of a conservative-leaning libertarian at the time, he never shut me down in class and even amplified my voice and opinions because they were so different. He was as progressive as they come, but he introduced me to local politics and how to get involved with them.

What inspired you to organize this clothing drive?

When I was a senior in high school back in 2015 and '16, that same teacher let our class organize something for the community. We agreed on a food drive called “Operation Feed the Homeless”, but also decided to collect clothes and ended up extending it into two events!

So years later, this past November or December, I walked outside one day and it was really cold. I thought “Man, I’m freezing! I can only imagine how people who have no homes to stay warm in feel.” It made me think of the drive we organized, and so I decided to put together another one.

Tell us about the day of the event. What was it like for you and everyone there?

A lot of people I know that came out are kind of left-leaning, so they weren’t necessarily comfortable hanging around and conversing due to COVID, which is fine. But, David [Naranjo] the [Libertarian Party] Chairman, my friend, and I all had a nice time, and there were some homeless folks from the park right there who were able to get stuff as they needed. It was really cool and all the people we helped out were very grateful, telling us “Thank you very much! We really appreciate this!”

LPOC Chairman David Naranjo and a volunteer with the clothes donated by attendees.
LPOC Chairman David Naranjo and a volunteer with the clothes donated by attendees.

People often think of libertarians as selfish, but this event seems to contradict that stereotype. In what ways was the drive an example of libertarianism in action?

I really hate that label! I hate when people call libertarians or even conservatives “selfish”. There’s a great quote by [Frederic] Bastiat where he basically says, “Socialists believe that because we don’t want the state to do something that we don’t want it done at all,” and it’s events and actions like this that show why that’s wrong.

What was the highlight of the event for you?

Probably when I ran into a woman who was there four or five years ago when we first did it. I wasn’t expecting to see her there again, and it was a little personal because she knows my family. She and her little crew there were just so grateful, and I guess that’s the selfish part I get out of doing stuff like this because I like seeing people happy. We got what we could and it wasn’t the most in the world, but they were extremely happy with what we did have and that’s the satisfaction I get. And not just that, but seeing people that I went to high school with come out and give support. I have friends who are very progressive who came out, I have friends who are pretty conservative who came out, and it was just great seeing them all come together to support those less fortunate than them.

Where would you like to see the LPOC and libertarians in general go from here with events like this?

I’m actually trying to decide on the details right now, but drive number two is definitely coming! A lot of these people still need stuff, so another one is on the way for sure!

I think events like these are going to be super important in making the Libertarian Party recognizable within the county. I’m very confident in the team that we have right now, in the outreach committee we have right now. We have some great people on the team. Our chair David is doing great in terms of growing registered Libertarians in the county. I’m very optimistic about the future, I’d just love to see us pop up more and be more involved in the community.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and interviewee, and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.

Reggie Peralta is a native of Santa Ana and UCLA graduate with a BA in Political Science. In addition to helping out as Blog Editor for the Libertarian Party of Orange County, he has volunteered and written content for local arts and cultural organizations like The Frida Cinema, Makara Center for the Arts, and LibroMobile.

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