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How Barry Goldwater undermined the GOP civil rights record

How Barry Goldwater undermined the GOP civil rights record

This is another in a series of Black History Month commentaries offered as part of an oft requested dialogue on race.  It deals with facts, events and perspectives that Democrats and the political left strive to keep out of their version of a “dialogue.”

The late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater called his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Bill the worst decision of his life.  It was a decision that had far greater ramifications than his personal reputation and legacy.  It was a major disaster for the Republican Party – a disaster that still plays out in American politics 60 years later.

That single vote enabled Democrats and the leftwing establishment to fraudulently recast the GOP as the Party in opposition to civil rights and the Democratic Party as the proponent of civil rights – even as the latter ruled over Black oppression on a grand scale   The false narrative was nothing less than the most monumental reversal in political polarities in American history.  One cannot understand the current political debate over civil rights without understanding what happened in the middle of the 20th Century – and earlier.

Following the Civil War, the demarcation between the civil rights of Negro Americans was in stark contrast.  Republicans were the Party of emancipation and civil rights and Democrats were the party of enslavement, segregation and oppression of Negroes.  Black Americans were overwhelmingly Republicans.  No one disputes that historic record.

However, oppression of Black Americans by the Democratic Party continued throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st.  But the public perception changed.

The Great Depression resulted in a shift in political allegiance.  Between 1932 and 1948, Black Americans shifted their political loyalty to the Democratic Party.  However, it was not based on civil rights in the constitutional sense.  Rather it was an existential shift based on economic survival – the beginning of what we see today, generational welfare dependency.

Since the 1930s, allegiance of Blacks to the Democratic Party was not based on civil rights…  but welfare.  Blacks continued to be segregated and oppressed by law, policy and violence in largely Democrat controlled jurisdictions. 

The life for Black Americans trapped in the solid Democrat south and the big cities of the north did not improve. Many of the same deprivations of Jim Crow – quality education, good healthcare, decent housing, equal justice, safe neighborhoods, social mobility – remain part of life in the segregated ghettos to this day.

Republicans were the primary driving force behind the civil rights legislation of the mid-20th Century – including the 1957, 1960 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills – passed over the votes and filibusters of congressional Democrats.

Unfortunately for the GOP, Goldwater’s single vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Bill – combined with his being the Republican presidential candidate – created an opportunity for Democrats and a biased media to smear the GOP as an anti-civil rights party.  It was a successful political strategy because Democrats were able to recast the civil rights debate over welfare – while continuing to ignore the constitutional rights of Black Americans.  By keeping Blacks segregated and poor, Democrats were able to make welfare an existential choice for impoverished ghetto residents.  Welfare became a political opiate for those desperate for survival.   In the past 50 to 80 years, the primary element in all civil rights debate was some form of welfare.

Ironically, Republicans were cast as anti-civil rights even as Democrats carried on their Massive Resistance campaign against school desegregation for decades after Brown v. Board of Education and the civil rights acts of the 1960s.  Voting rights continued to be thwarted by Democrat regimes in the south.  Blacks were never allowed to integrate and assimilate under Democrat governance in the south or in the  big cities.

Goldwater turned out to be a major disaster for the GOP.  Not only by losing the election by such a wide margin, but because he empowered the false narrative about the Republican Party and civil rights – a narrative that plays out to this day.  His one vote gave the specious narrative undeserved credibility.  It became common knowledge.

Lincoln once noted that widely held beliefs – especially false beliefs – have the impact of fact.  That could not be truer than the contemporary “common knowledge” that Republicans are anti-civil rights while Democrats have been the benefactors of the Black community. 

In fact, Democrats have ruled over – and continue to rule over the most ruthless examples of de facto racism.  That was true when they maintained one-party rule in the south – and is true today, where Democrats maintain one-party rule in America’s most racists cities. 

Thanks to progress Democrats influence over the communication industries – news, publishing, schools and entertainment – the false narrative has continued to be a matter of erroneous common belief.  That has been the case for the past 60 years – thanks to Barry Goldwater’s unfortunate vote back in 1964.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Darren

    So if there was truth in News reporting back then things might have been different today.
    So fast forward 60 years, nothing has changed.
    CNN & NSMBC Still Lie, or even worse, do not report the news if it has a negative impact
    on their front runner.
    Democrat’s have always enjoyed keeping people like mushrooms.
    In the dark, and away from what is happening!

  2. Mike f

    Larry’s tome so overlooks the facts and relies on ancient history. As Larry points out (but does not come out and say the obvious) when the Republican Party formed it was the liberal party and the democrats were the conservatives. By every definition, Lincoln is likely the most liberal president ever, and because he championed more black rights, the party of Lincoln became the party supported by African Americans. That changed over time, as Republicans began to endorse more conservative platforms and Democrats endorsed more liberal ideas, culminating with the civil rights movement of the 60’s when southern democrats realized their party had shifted and became republicans. While Goldwater might have influenced the perception initially that republicans were racists, that is not what kept it in people’s minds-the big shift of the southern racists from democrat to republican is factually what keeps that perception alive. And of course the fact that all of the white supremacists today (think David Duke, Nick Fuentes and others) are outspoken republicans, plus the fact that the current idiot leading the Republican Party couldn’t bring himself to criticize the racists who rioted in Charlottesville, saying instead “many fine people on both sides” leads the thinking person to realize that Larry’s comments are those of an idiot (oh sorry, supposed to use the word ignoramus when referring to Larry so as not to be thought ‘childish’). So there tis…

  3. Frank

    Garbage. The black vote had belonged to the Democrat Party for decades before the 1964 “Civil Rights Act,” which (among other mischief) opened the door to affirmative action/equal opportunity/diversity training/[your favorite here]. The Goldwater candidacy called into being a conservative Republican voter base that enabled the GOP to win five of the next six presidential elections. The Cold War was won by the Reagan-Bush administration, which used Goldwater’s book “Why Not Victory” as its blueprint.

    • Name larry Horist

      Frank … The dramatic change came in 1964. Of course the Black vote started moving to the the Democrats in the mid-1936. It was not as sudden as many believe. It was not until 1948 that a majority of Blacks had registered Democrat. And it was not so lobsided, Eisenhower had received 40 percent of the Black vote in 1956. In 1960, Nixon got 32 percent. BUT .. in 1964, Goldwater got only 4%. That was the breakpoint — and it was since then that the Black vote was no longer competitive. Perhaps I should have noted all that in the commentary.


    And it’s back to the civil war as proof that modern day Democrats continued the: “oppression of Black Americans by the Democratic Party continued throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st. That’s right folks, somehow Southern Democrats, with no control or even allegiance to Northern Democrats were, indeed, different but one on the same favoring racism, the South overtly, covertly, and systemically; the North – systemically and different even in that.

    And he leaves out that Republicans are guilty of the same crime, if you can even call it a crime.

    I have said Horist is a political hack that needs to win at all costs, especially the truth. He spins fractured fairy tales of truth, without sources as usual. This time he spins: “Between 1932 and 1948, Black Americans shifted their political loyalty to the Democratic Party. However, it was not based on civil rights in the constitutional sense. Rather it was an existential shift based on economic survival – the beginning of what we see today, generational welfare dependency.”

    In the beginning, obviously Blacks voted for the party of Lincoln. In 1936, all that changed as Blacks voted big time for the Democratic Party, for FDR. But if you study it, it’s pretty obvious it’s not FDR, but FDR’s New Deal. Pretty smart these black people. No matter that Horist feels they are stupid enough to not just move to a Republican area. After the debacle that was the Republican Hoover, who managed, or forgot to manage the economy, a trait Republicans continue today, of course Blacks went for FDR and The New Deal.
    Horist says FDR is a racist and the New Deal was no deal for Blacks. They did not agree.

    After 1865, the party of choice was obvious for Blacks. If not, the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the re-emergence of Southern Democrats of the Confederacy as elected officials, the expansion of Jim Crow laws, sealed the deal. Many blacks moved North. Given Jim Crow, it was difficult for blacks to vote in the South and the numbers were still low in the North, so, frankly, they lost the power of the vote for a while. Republicans brought some of that back with their civil rights laws, they still needed Northern Democrats to pass many of those, yeah, the same ones initiating programs of systemic racism.

    Yet the migration North continued in the late 1800’s often to only to meet a different discrimination as a fact of life in Northern industrial cities. Covenants limited the housing to blacks and unions denied African-American workers. Employers frequently hired blacks as a last resort. In 1896 the Supreme Court legalized segregation in its ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson, saying that “separate but equal” facilities did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Segregation by law (de jure) in the South, and by custom (de facto) in the Republican North was legalized by Plessy in 1896 by the Fuller court consisting of five Republicans and three Democrats with a 7-1 vote, Fuller, a Democrat was the sole dissenting voice. All Republicans voted for segregation; the worm had begun to turn and Republicans turned the screw.

    I can go on, but suffice it to say, Democrats own slavery, Southern Democrats. Southern Democrats have little in common with Northern Democrats or the modern Democratic party. Everyone owns parts of systemic racism; it can be found in all areas of the US. Is it worse in US cities. You betcha. But wherever you find minority communities, you will find systemic racism. You may find it in other places too. When a cop pulls you over anywhere in America, you MAY find systemic racism. Whenever you wind up in court, you MAY find systemic racism. When you go for a loan, to buy a house, whatever, you MAY find systemic racism anywhere in America.

    Often it’s done for power, often it’s unintended outcomes of best intentions of legislators, often it’s just people being people in all sorts of endeavors — business, religious, and even social.

    Read the expert definitions that I posted: folks can judge for themselves.

    Horist’s claim is solely Democrats, solely in Democratic cities fails to pass even a simple sniff test. He just wants to beat Democrats. Alwyas has.