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56 years ago today, the 1964 Presidential elections took place, and the political landscape took a definite and permanent turn. Republican nominee Barry Goldwater represented a decidedly hard turn to the right, anticipated during the 1962 mid-term elections. Goldwater represented the backlash to the Civil Rights movement and to the New Frontier of John F. Kennedy. Johnson represented a continuation of the legacy of JFK, of the social and economic programs which began during the Kennedy years and Johnson’s vision of The Great Society.
It also represented a defection from the Democratic Party of former Dixiecrats – the Southern bloc, which was strongly opposed to the Civil Rights and Voting rights movements – to the ranks of the Republicans. It also represented the demise of the liberal wing of the Republican Party and the erosion of moderates to the ranks of the Democrats. The election represented the huge change, the reversal in some quarters, from what had been The Party Of Lincoln to the Democrats, and the Party of Dixiecrats and hardliners to the party of Goldwater. It was confusing to many, but it was a change which had been seen coming for a long time – since the 1948 election and gaining momentum in the 1950s with the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement.
So this night would signify a division taking shape in America in the 1960s – the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. But one which forever changed the social and political atmosphere in America; one which continues today.
Here are two excerpts of the election returns – the first one starts just as the polls in the East coast are closing, with coverage from CBS. The sound is a little rough because it was recorded at super-slow speed – so there is some strain necessary to get the atmosphere of the evening as it unfolded.
The second one is later on, as the polls closed on the West Coast, with coverage from ABC News. The sound is considerably better, but still recorded at slow speed.
Together, they give a picture of just how this November 3rd unfolded and partly why 1964 was such a pivotal year for politics and society in general for America.