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Goldwater Pledges to Enforce Civil Rights Law if Elected President

July 10, 1964 - In an emotion-packed dialogue before the GOP platform committee today in San Francisco, Senator Barry Goldwater pledged “I can and I will” use the full powers of the Presidency conscientiously to enforce the civil rights law. He called on all of the people to wipe out discrimination in every form.

A spirited exchange with George Parker of the District of Columbia, the only Negro on the committee, climaxed a tumultuous appearance by the Arizona Senator, who pleaded for party unity and the rejection of “the temptation to make our whole party’s platform a bandstand for any factional chorus.”

Goldwater’s show produced the first blaze of genuine convention excitement as the leading candidate for the Presidential nomination chided Governor William Scranton, his principal opponent, for mistaking what he called small personal views for Republican principles.

“I would not presume to ask compliance with any detailed desire I may have,” Goldwater told the committee. “I hope you will entertain no such demand for compliance from any member of this convention or of this party. You must speak for the whole party. You must seek a document which will unite us on principle, not divide us.”

During his opening statement, Goldwater poured out an indictment of the Johnson Administration and, after a booming ovation subsided, fielded committee questions. The first pitched him squarely into the civil rights issue. If he is elected, would he move to seek repeal of the new law, move to change it because he thought it was unconstitutional?

“No,” Goldwater replied. “That’s not, in my opinion, the duty of the President. The legislative branch has spoken for the people, and I accept the majority view. The President’s job is to administer the law.”

Then Parker, the D.C. delegate, asked Goldwater how he could conscientiously use his Presidential power to enforce a law he believed was unconstitutional.

“When you use that argument, you question my honesty,” Goldwater said sharply. “I should resent it, but I don’t.”

Parker protested that he did not question the Senator’s integrity. Goldwater retorted emphatically: “You are, but I’ll overlook it.”

Goldwater said he still believed two sections of the Civil Rights Act were unconstitutional and he had voted his convictions, but he would uphold the provision of the law because “they are the voice of the majority.”

“I have always all my life been against segregation,” Goldwater said, pointing out that he had desegregated the Arizona National Guard and school in his district and had favored a Phoenix ordinance forbidding segregation in public accommodations.

Then Goldwater said emotionally that Republicans must go to work throughout the land to bring understanding in human relations between all races and religions, for the real issue here is discrimination — “and it’s not good for anybody.”

“Our Constitution,” he said, “has laid the foundation for a just society. We are all entitled to equal opportunities to exercise our talents and fulfill our ambitions so long as we do not infringe the rights of others. No person, whether government official or private citizen, should violate the rights of some in order to further the rights of others.”

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