United States presidential election, 1964
President Lyndon B. Johnson was still popular, despite the fact that America was increasingly involved in the Vietnam War. Johnnson's popularity ensured his nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate, while the Republicans chose conservative senator Barry Goldwater as their candidate. Goldwater wanted to change the strategy for the war in Vietnam (once saying he would use an atomic bomb to stop Chinese supply lines.) Johnson countered that he would not escalate the war in Vietnam. Johnson won a landslide victory in the election.
This would be the last time the Republican Party campaigned solely towards its right-wing base supporters. Goldwater subsequently realised that relying on the Republican base alone would not be enough to win an election, and took steps to ensure that from 1968 onwards the Republicans would campaign across a broader political spectrum while still holding true to Conservative values.
1964 Convention: Mississippi Freedom Party
- See also: Black history
The Mississippi Freedom Party was organized by African Americans to challenge the establishment Democratic Party, which allowed participation only by whites. The party ran a slate of delegates with close to 80,000 people casting ballots. The party hoped to replace the Regular Democrats as the official Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
At the convention the party challenged the Regular Democrats' right to be seated, claiming that the Regular Democrats were illegally elected in a segregated process that violated both party regulations and federal law. The Equal Protection Clause had been on the books for nearly 100 years already. The Democratic Party referred the challenge to the credentials committee, which televised its proceedings and allowed the nation to see and hear the moving testimony of several delegates and the retaliation inflicted on them by Democrats for attempting to vote.
After that, most observers and pundits thought the credentials committee were ready to unseat the Regular Democrats and seat the Freedom Party delegates in their place. But some Democrats from other states threatened to leave the convention and bolt the party if the Regular Democrats were unseated. President Johnson wanted a united convention and feared losing support. To ensure his victory in November, Johnson maneuvered to prevent the Mississippi Freedom Democrats from replacing the all-white Regular Democrats.
Two future Democrat Presidential nominees, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, denied Blacks equal protection and made a mockery of the civil rights movement. Johnson held a private meeting with Humphrey, Mondale, Roy Wilkins, Andrew Young, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther and Martin Luther King Jr. A plan was hatched to offer the Freedom Democrats two non-voting At-Large seats with observer status, rather than replace the all-white delegation which had been undemocratically and illegally elected. Johnson arrogated to himself the right to pick which two, and Johnson chose one white and one black. Johnson dispatched Humphrey and Mondale and ordered them to make sure that “that illiterate woman," Fannie Lou Hamer would never be a delegate. Dr. King protested and was told by Reuther to shut up.
The offer was rejected, but Humphrey and Mondale remained powerhouse liberals in the Democratic party for another 20 years.
Johnson orders illegal FBI spying
Johnson ordered illegal FBI wiretaps on enemies and allies alike. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, whose Department included the FBI, both were wiretapped during the convention without their knowledge. Johnson received nearly hourly reports on their private conversations and activities at Oval Office where he orchestrated convention events.
During the controversy over seating the all-white Mississippi delegation a protest demonstration was occurring outside. Johnson phoned the head of a television broadcast network and instructed him,
Get your G****m cameras off the n*****s out front and back on the speaker's stand inside, G****m it!
In 1975 the New York Times noted,
the 1964 incident is an even graver offense than the original Watergate break-in, for it represented the turning of a police instrument of Government [FBI] to illegal activities for political purposes.
Johnson's misuse of CIA
In 1964 E. Howard Hunt, Jr. was serving as chief of covert action for the CIA's Domestic Operations Division. He was order to spy on Goldwater's campaign headquarters. He set up a special unit and arranged daily pick-up of "any and all information" about Goldwater and his plans. These included advance copies of the candidate's speeches, texts which often had not yet been made available to the press. The consequence of this was that before Goldwater had even opened his mouth, Democrats had five speakers primed to reply. Hunt was ordered to spy on Goldwater directly from Johnson himself through on intermediary. The materials picked up at Republican headquarters, including press releases and travel schedules, were delivered to a White House aide who was a former CIA official.
Testifying before the House Select Committee on Intelligence on November 6, 1975, CIA Director William Colby acknowledged that in 1964 a CIA official attached to the National Security Council prepared campaign material for Johnson and, with the help of another CIA employee, got advance texts of Goldwater's speeches and reported regularly on the campaign to the CIA.
Civil rights violations
Two weeks before election day Johnson instructed Bill Moyers to transmit an order to the FBI to run checks on numerous members of Goldwater's campaign and Senate staffs in an effort to obtain derogatory information about their possible sexual aberrations. What Johnson was looking for, Moyers told the FBI, was information about "fags" on Goldwater's staff.
One month before the election, White House Chief of Staff Walter Jenkins was arrested in a pay toilet of the men's room of the YMCA, two blocks from the White House. It was not the first time Jenkins had been arrested on the same charge. The police had apprehended him in the same washroom in January 1959 in a similar homosexual episode.
Jenkins called Abe Fortas to say he was in serious trouble. Fortas tried to contact Lyndon Johnson who was campaigning in New York. When he was unable to do so, the Fortas acted on his own. He advised Jenkins to check into a hospital in order to be out of reach of reporters. At the same time Fortas and Clifford went to the offices of the Washington Post, Washington Star and Daily News to hush up the story. United Press International however, broke the story. Meanwhile, the book at the police station containing the Jenkins' arrest record disappeared. But a photograph of the particular police blotter had been taken.
When the news broke there was public concern over Jenkins' access to classified information and his susceptibility to blackmail. LBJ asked FBI dire for J. Edgar Hoover to investigate. LBJ went even further, he told Hoover what the final report should say. Johnson suggested the report should state that Jenkins was overly tired, that he was a good family man and a hard worker, and that he was not "biologically" a homosexual.
Within the week Hoover sent the results of the FBI's "extensive investigation" over to Acting Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. The FBI investigation, said the director, "disclosed no information that Mr. Jenkins has compromised the security or interests of the United States in any manner." The report, issued two weeks before the election, claimed that "a favorable appraisal of Mr. Jenkins' loyalty and dedication to the United States was given the FBI by more than three hundred of his associates, both business and social."
|candidates||popular vote||electoral vote|
|Lyndon B. Johnson||43,126,233||486|
|Barry M. Goldwater||27,174,989||52|
|Earle Harold Munn||23,267||0|
- Encyclopedia of Presidents, by Jim Hargrove, Children's Press, 1987, pp. 67-68.
- Fannie Lou Hamer's Powerful Testimony, American Experience, PBS. youtube.
- Freedom Ballot in MS ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- The Mississippi Movement & the MFDP ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- Branch, Taylor (1998). Pillar of Fire. Simon & Schuster.
- Carmichael, Stokely, and Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 90.
- Mills, Kay, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, (New York: Plume, 1994), p. 5.
- Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson's Boy, Macmlllan, 1968, pp. 681-682
- Victor Lasky, It Didn't Start With Watergate Dell, 1978, p. 186
- Lasky, p. 187
- Eric F. Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, Dell, 1969, p. 299
- A Pictoral History of the U.S. Presidents, by Clare Gibson, Gramercy Books, 2001, p. 125.