Yesterday's Washington Post included a long, juicy profile of Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). It opens with a set piece of the "pro-pot, video game playng congressman" standing around a marijuana dispensary in his home state, chatting knowledgeably about the product but refusing to have his picture taken because "that could go viral."
This is something new for Polis, the 39-year-old self-made millionaire member of Congress: He is starting to care what people think about him. The same guy mocked by GQ for his sartorial choices—known as Congress's chief video-game enthusiast, the first member to accept bitcoin donations on the day it became legal, and a top spokesman for legalizing marijuana—now wants to be taken seriously by the establishment. That doesn't mean he's about to start going along to get along. It just means he's looking for a change in style.
already well aware of the Colorado phenom with the libertarian touch, since we had a big juicy profile of Polis several weeks ago in our last print issue:Reason readers, of course, were
Close your eyes and think of a stereotypical gamer. Is he a bowtie-wearing gay father of one with a penchant for beekeeping who represents Colorado's 2nd District in the House of Representatives? Probably not. But maybe he should be.
The Post also covers Polis' stance on fracking:
Yes, being gay and being in favor of marijuana legalization have changed from liabilities to assets, but on the issue of fracking, Democrats remain divided. Polis has spent hundreds of thousands of his own dollars on a series of ballot initiatives in Colorado that would limit places where fracking could occur, and the issue has seriously fractured Democrats in the state.
When Reason covered his stance on fracking a couple of weeks ago, Polis turned up in our comments section to chat with our readers about the nuances of the issue in libertarian terms and offer some hard evidence for his claims:
The argument comes down to individual rights.... It's a complex one and the libertarian perspective is not immediately clear. Can someone else engage in an activity next to your house which causes you economic damage and reduces the value of your home without compensating you? A recent study found that fracking nearby resulted in 4-15% decrease in home value:
Currently there is nothing someone can do to prevent fracking nearby.... I think the liberarian perspective would allow for covenants in HOAs or even through local government to settle property disputes like this between neighbors, provide a mechanism for accounting for externalities. Currently any attempt at addressing this is pre-empted by the state. Here are some more thoughts on the topic:
Fundamentally I believe in a regulatory marketplace.... people who want to live in areas that allow fracking, marijuana, gambling, and prostitution should be able to and people who want to live in areas that don't should also be able to.
Polis' presence in our comments section certainly bolsters the Post's take on his M.O.:
Polis likes to think of himself as a translator between groups. On my trip with him, he sat down with parents of gifted students where people said things like, "How do you ID a GT with ESL or ADD?" then spoke to an older group of Democratic Women of Boulder County voters about what "pay-fors" to use for certain legislation, then spoke about how both Congress and new companies thrive when there are more "disruptive" forces at play at a panel about start-ups.
"What I want to do is be able to appeal to the Reddit generation while also making sure other parts of the party are at the table," he said munching on a Bobo's Oat bar and drinking organic iced tea. "Internet freedom, marijuana and other issues. It doesn't mean every Democrat has to change their mind, but we need to have a way to talk about these things without alienating the next generation."