On race, Rand Paul is trying, or at least he's trying to appear as if he's trying:
... [Paul's] speech to the National Urban League's conference in Cincinnati was part of a broader campaign ... to engage with minority voters ahead of a likely presidential run....I understand if you're skeptical about Paul's sincerity, given the fact that in the past he's expressed opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and also given the fact that he's worked closely with overt racists, which is, of course, a family tradition.
"Not only do I support the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, I'm a Republican who wants to restore a federal role for the government in the Voting Rights Act," Paul said....
Paul has gently criticized his party's focus on voter ID laws without renouncing the laws themselves.... But he's gotten ahead of his party in pushing aggressively to restore voting rights to convicted felons, a move that would disproportionately enfranchise minorities. Paul has also worked with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker on legislation to help certain felons seal their records, which would make finding a job easier for them.
Paul said he was heartened that black turnout was actually higher than white turnout in the 2012 presidential election. "This is a good thing, it's a testament to how far we've come," he said. "But obstacles to voting still exist -- probably the biggest obstacle is still having a felony record." ....
But regardless of whether Paul is being sincere or opportunistic, how is all this going to play when he's running for the GOP presidential nomination? After all, not long after Iowa and New Hampshire, he's going to have to compete in South Carolina -- a state that for decades had to preclear electoral changes with the Feds under Section V of the Voting Rights Act (a requirement the Supreme Court lifted not long ago, to the delight of most right-wingers), and also a state where in 2000 John McCain was subject to a racist smear campaign that describes his adopted Bangladeshi daughter as "an illegitimate black child" he had "fathered."
And within a month after South Carolina, Paul is going to have to compete (if the current schedule holds) in North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Louisiana, and Alabama, states that were also wholly or partly under preclearance requirements under the Voting Rights Act.
Paul "wants to restore a federal role for the government in the Voting Rights Act"? He wants more felons allowed to vote? He wants records of felony convictions sealed? I don't even think you'd have to sneak those items into the Republican conversation in anonymous, surreptitiously circulated mailers or push polls -- I think, in Republican primaries, you could openly denounce Paul's stances as favoring big government D.C. intrusion on local decision-making, and as favoring the rights of Willie Horton-esque felons (who could be of any race in the inevitable TV ads) over the rights of the law-abiding.
And hell, maybe Ben Carson will be the one to denounce all this openly, which would take the heat off the white candidates. Though I also expect there to be mailers of indeterminate provenance, featuring scary-looking New Black Panthers and ACORN logos.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I really don't think Paul can get away with this -- not in the contemporary GOP.