“You are not well represented,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said during his 11-hour speech against reauthorizing the Patriot Act last year.
“What has happened is that I think the Congress is maybe a decade behind the people,” he added, making a favorite point about how unrepresentative our “representatives” in Washington often are. “I think this is an argument for why we should limit terms. I think it is an argument for why we should have more turnover in office, because we get up here and stay too long and get separated from the people.”
Paul was specifically speaking about warrantless mass surveillance, but his point is more broadly applicable.
That’s particularly obvious in this new chart from The Washington Post, based on NORML’s 2016 congressional scorecard, which shows the contrast between how many members of Congress currently support legalizing marijuana and how many would support it if Congress matched the general public on this point. Now, I might quibble a little with the methodology used in the chart — Paul, for instance, has said he supports ending federal pot prohibition and leaving this issue to the states, which is really the most he can promise as a federal official, anyway — but even so, the contrast here is striking.
That absurdly big disparity means Congress is not just a decade behind. It means current congressional support for ending marijuana prohibition is actually lower than national backing for legalization any year Gallup pollsters have measured it, going back all the way to 1969.
Seriously, more Americans (12 percent) supported legal pot in 1969 than members of Congress (4 percent) support it today!
And you know that if Congress is this behind the times on one issue, it offers similarly abysmal “representation” on other issues, too. For instance, Paul likes to point out that foreign aid, including military aid, is wildly unpopular with the public — but in Congress it gets overwhelming support.
I’m not positive, as Paul suggests, that term limits are the best solution. After all, on the rare occasion that we get a truly principled, pro-liberty candidate into Congress, term limits would soon see them replaced with someone unlikely to be so valuable. But whether it’s term limits or a more thorough electoral overhaul, it is difficult in the extreme to look at that chart and fail to conclude something needs to change in how we fill our congressional seats—and it needs to be something big.