One of the most significant developments of the 1964 presidential election was the virtually solid anti-conservative Republican stand of black voters across the South, which resulted in the defeat of Barry Goldwater. In 1968, the GOP ended their brief friendship with white conservative Southerners and actively pursued black voters with civil rights promises and programs.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Barry Goldwater Amid Rebel Flags
“When Senator Barry Goldwater brought his Presidential campaign to east Tennessee in September, 1964, he spoke from the Knoxville-Maryville airport, in the solid Republican county of Blount. It is Parson Brownlow’s home country; at a rural cemetery a few miles away a headstone proclaims the death of a local patriot, “murdered by Confederates.”
When Senator Goldwater spoke, however, the Confederates were out in much greater force than one hundred years before. A large Confederate flag dominated the platform, and smaller Rebel pennants were waved throughout the crowd.
Here was a candidate who spoke of States’ rights . . . The first signs [of Southerners sensing they had allies] became evident when there was outspoken opposition to the Kennedy-Johnson civil rights law in other sections of the country besides the South. Governor George Wallace of Alabama made impressive showings in Democratic presidential primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland. Stirred by the scent of victory, the Mississippi legislature financed a national lobby against the bill.
Racial violence flared in a dozen points in the North and reached the riot stage in [New York’s] Harlem. At the San Francisco convention all the South watched as the forces of Senator Goldwater, who had voted against the civil rights law, turned aside disorganized elements which attempted vainly to moderate the Republican platform.
The final Goldwater campaign effort was a television spectacular beamed over the old Confederacy from Columbia, South Carolina. Fabled movie stars from California came to join old-line Southern politicians being retreaded as Republicans. Across the old Dixiecrat belt the elixir worked.
Georgia was added to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Mississippians who had voted 90 percent for Strom Thurmond in 1948, now voted with him 87 percent as Goldwater Republicans.
Mississippi gave Goldwater a larger percentage of its vote than any of the 44 States carried by Johnson gave the President, but even majorities like this failed to give the Republicans the majority of the popular vote in the South as a whole. The electoral vote, of course, went two to one for Johnson.
Negro votes made the difference between Johnson and Goldwater in Virginia, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, and possibly North Carolina. They also supplied the winning margin in several House and Senate contests in these same States. For the first time, Democrats in these areas are fully realizing the advantage of such an asset, and the local Republicans who deliberately set their course against soliciting Negro support now recognize the nature of the price they paid to prove themselves better [States’ rights advocates] than the Dixiecrats.
(Look Away From Dixie, Frank E. Smith, LSU Press, 1965, pp. 71-74)