Editor's note: Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.
By Benjamin Todd Jealous, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Earlier this month Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) visited Howard University to take a swing at repairing relations between African Americans and the Republican Party.
As famed sportscaster Harry Kalas would have said, it was largely a swing and a miss.
Paul struck out when he tried to equate today's Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.
Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.
Paul received applause when he told the Howard crowd, "We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community." He illustrated using one issue where the GOP can connect with black voters: criminal justice reform.FULL STORY