Michael Steele is getting all of the press, but in Michigan (where I’m spending summer vacation with the family), the name to remember is Keith Butler. Running for Senate on the GOP ticket, Butler’s already got some history in local government–he was on the Detroit City Council. And he’s pastor of one of the largest churches in the state of Michigan.

There are two big issues black Republican candidates have to deal with–both of them obvious. Whites don’t tend to vote for blacks as a general rule, and blacks don’t tend to vote Republican as a general rule. There are exceptions–Republican gubernatorial candidates can get as much as 30% of the black vote depending, and whites will vote for blacks if they don’t feel threatened. Butler really doesn’t have the ear of the Republican Party in Michigan for any number of reasons, but I happen to know that he’s been mildly effective at raising money.

But for me the wildcard is his policy preferences. My father-in-law got a flier from the Butler campaign, and from the flier it’s clear that Butler’s got a stealth campaign for black Democrats. According to the flier, Butler supports:

  • Affirmative Action
  • Cleaning up the Environment
  • Staving off cuts in student loans

Of the things that I can’t get a bead on, he MAY support alternative energy policies, and he MAY support universal health care. Further, he is firmly anti-abortion, and anti-gay marriage.

This is the type of Republican candidate that can make waves. Black enough to understand that Affirmative Action is needed, and that working class folks need government assistance to pay for college. Black enough to understand the devastation laid upon our cities by environmental mis-steps. But conservative enough to support the cultural issues that drive white evangelicals.

I’ve long felt that if the GOP gave up the fight against Affirmative Action and the EEOC, they’d be able to claim the middle to upper income black vote for the next 50 years. Butler may provide the blueprint. But the real problem keeping the GOP from pursuing this blueprint aggressively is simple. Even if we take a very very conservative approach and peg the percent of active racists at ten percent of the adult population, that doubles the TOTAL black population. No way around that.