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Goldwater to Vote Against Civil Rights Bill

June 18, 1964 - Senator Barry Goldwater, voicing fears for the Constitution and the people’s liberties, told a hushed Senate tonight that he will vote against the civil rights bill regardless of the political consequences.

In a brief declaration, the leading contender for the Republican Presidential nomination said he was “unalterably opposed to discrimination of any sort.”

But he said he could not support provisions in the rights bill “which fly in the face of the Constitution and which require for their effective execution the creation of a police state.”

“And so,” he continued, “because I am unalterably opposed to any threats to our great system of government and the loss of our God-given liberties, I shall vote ‘no’ on the bill.”

The galleries were packed as the Arizona conservative set his “clear conscience” against the main tides flowing in the Senate and even in his own party. The Senate is expected to pass the ball tomorrow by an overwhelming vote.

A majority of the Senate was present. But only a small band of supporters — Sens. Norris Cotton (R-N.H.), Strom Thurmond (D-S.C.), Karl Mundt (R-S.D.), and John McClellan (D-Ark.) — stepped forward to congratulate Goldwater afterward.

Goldwater’s decision evoked an immediate critical reaction from New York’s two Republican Senators, who both favor Governor William Scranton for the GOP Presidential nomination.

Senator Kenneth Keating said he did not believe the Republican party, “spawned by the greatest struggle for human freedom of the last century, should be led by a man who is opposed to the most important measure for human freedom we have considered during this century.”

Senator Jacob Javits, who sits alongside Goldwater in the chamber, shook his head and turned his back on the Arizonan after the speech.

After leaving the floor, Goldwater was surrounded by reporters asking what effect he thought his action might have on his candidacy. But he only shrugged in reply.

Goldwater’s evening speech came after a day-long session in which diehard Southern Senators voiced undying objections to the civil rights measure.

The last round of Dixie oratory standing in the way of a showdown vote was interrupted when a stocky youth rose in the gallery and brandished a Nazi flag, shouting at the senators: “They have betrayed the white majority! Only Rockwell can save us now!”

The demonstrator was identified later as Jerry Cochran, 19, of Arlington, Va., whose address is near the headquarters of American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell. Cochran was seized and ejected by three Senate doormen and held for mental observation.

Senator John Stennis (D-Miss.), speaking against the rights bill at the time, commented: “Well, that’s a sign of the times,” and continued his attack.

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