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The 1964 Presidential election matched two very different candidates during one of the most critical times in American history. John F. Kennedy, the very popular president, had been assassinated only a year earlier. The Cold War was at its height, the Civil Rights Movement was at full tilt, and the situation in Vietnam was only beginning to escalate.
The two major-party candidates were the Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the Republican Barry Morris Goldwater. Johnson chose Senate majority-whip leader, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, as his running mate. Goldwater tabbed New York Congressman William Miller as vice-presidential candidate. Third-party candidates included: Clifton DeBerry from the Socialist Workers Party; E. Harold Munn of the Prohibition Party; John Kasper of the National States Rights Party; Joseph B. Lightburn from the Constitution Party; and James Hensley of the Universal Party. While these third-party candidates were on the ballot, the presidential election was a two-horse race between Johnson and Goldwater.
Best know as a conservative icon and author of The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater began his political career in the U.S. Department of the Interior (Havel, 227). His rise to the national spotlight started in 1952 when he won his first Arizona Senatorial victory by a narrow margin. He was re-elected in a 1958 landslide after his criticism of, then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration. A conservative Republican, Gold- water is remembered for his attacks on the policies of John F. Kennedy's administration, particularly the welfare state, which he likened to socialism. He also opposed the centralization of power in Washington, and upheld the powers of state and local government.
Lyndon Johnson used congress to begin his national political career. He won election in 1937 to the House from the state of Texas, and 1948 to the Senate, defeating Coke Stevenson in the Democratic primary and Republican Jack Porter in the general election (Havel, 306). In 1951, he became the majority whip of the Senate, the youngest to ever hold the position. He gained national attention by becoming the chairman of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Service Committee during the Korean War (Havel, 306). In 1954 Johnson won re-election to the Senate. He challenged Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and lost, but became vice president when Kennedy chose him as his running mate. On November 6, 1960, Johnson was elected as Vice President of the United States and was also re-elected to a third term in the Senate.
While serving as Vice President, Johnson was a member of the Cabinet and National Security Council, Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council (NASA today), and Chairman of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (Havel, 306). On November 22, 1963, he became the 36th President of the United States after the assassination of Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. After Kennedy's death, Johnson announced that he would support the legislative agenda, particularly concerning civil rights and education that Kennedy had set up. With the 1964 presidential election looming, Johnson did what he said he would do and on July 2, 1964 he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act did much for all Americans, but especially benefited African-Americans. It protected the right to vote, guaranteed access to public accommodations, and did away with withholding of any federal funds from programs administered in a discriminatory fashion (Nelson, 387).
During the Kennedy administration the Democratic and Republican parties experienced a dramatic shift in their respective views on racial issues. The Democratic Party, which had long been led by southerners who suppressed the civil rights of blacks in the south, led by Kennedy, began to soften its stance on those issues. Taking the Democrats' place were the Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln, The Great Emancipator. Barry Goldwater was the perfect representative to lead the Republican Party under their new racial edict. The presidential race of 1964 has been described as, "a decisive turning point in the political evolution of racial issues" (Carmines, Stimson, 47).
The debate, passage, and signing of the Civil Rights Act divided the country with the longest congressional debate in the nation's history (Black and Black, 149). While Senator Goldwater was one of the few non-Southerners who voted against the Civil Rights Act, he was not a racist, although he did become a frequent companion to the Southern Congressmen and white Southern segregationists (Black and Black, 150). Many of Goldwater's supporters believed that he would collect the majority's vote from his home region, and it was thought he could get the Midwest vote as well. With no chance to win electoral votes from California or New York, Goldwater kn
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