It's time to start preparing yourself for President Rand Paul

But with half of the GOP’s 2016 bench trying to avoid prison time and Democrats spinning their wheels in Obama’s second-term rut, the idea of a President Rand Paul is starting to sound less and less crazy. On issues like criminal justice reform, mass surveillance, and drug policy, Paul is casting himself as Another Option, carving out new space as the candidate who can make room for both small-government libertarians and other voters—young people and minorities, mostly—who don’t see either party as particularly effective or relevant. And some of what he’s saying makes a lot of sense…

Civil liberties issues don’t usually dominate presidential elections, and on the big issues—the economy, immigration reform, healthcare—Paul has been decidedly less bipartisan. But presidential elections are mostly a numbers game: As you are no doubt aware, Obama crushed both John McCain and Mitt Romney among voters ages 18-29 (66-32 and 60-37, respectively). But George W. Bush was basically tied with both Al Gore and John Kerry among that demographic. If Paul can use civil liberties as a wedge issue to eat away at Democratic margins with young people—particularly in swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, and in the West—he might actually have a shot in 2016. And the more Hillary Clinton keeps reminding people of her hawkish, autocratic proclivities the more likely it gets that voters will be open to other options.

Of course, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there are reasons to be concerned about the prospect of Rand Paul becoming the leader of the free world. (The Democratic National Committee has been happy to point these out—they’ve blasted out at least 16 emails about Paul this month, a sign that someone over there recognizes he might be a problem.) But there will be plenty of time to go into all of that later. For now, just consider this a fair warning.

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