03 May 2016
US Presidential Election 1964
In April 1961 a CIA backed operation to overthrow President Charles de Gaulle's government was successful. General Maurice Challe strengthened ties with the United States and pushed to make France an important member of NATO. In return for French cooperation the US began to send advisers and equipment to Algeria to aid France in its war there. The Soviet Union smuggled weapons to the Algerians and moved some of their own soldiers from the Muslim regions of the USSR to the combat zone. Algeria quickly became an important proxy war between East and West.
President Kennedy was forced to increase the assets sent to Algeria over the next few years. In 1962 Marines and Naval air assets took direct action in the conflict shortly followed by US Army ground forces. This was taking place as the President was also increasing commitments in Vietnam. The American people would not stomach two major foreign wars, so by 1964 the few advisers in Vietnam were withdrawn, leaving that country open for conquest by communist forces. Efforts were then re-doubled in Algeria. Rumblings of a return of the draft angered more Americans.
In 1964 nearly all of Algeria was occupied by Franco-American forces. However the Algerians would not surrender. The press turned on the western allies as atrocities were uncovered. This did not help the reelection campaign of Kennedy. He was able to distance himself from the worst events taking place in Africa, the American people easily placing blame on the French. Russian media focused on blaming the 'Vichy' dictators that controlled France in an attempt to create chaos in France and hopefully have them drop out of NATO.
Barry Goldwater obtained the Republican nomination to run for President. While he was also anti-Soviet he saw the disaster the war in Algeria was. He wanted to withdraw from Algeria and leave it to the French so that America could confront the Russians on other fronts. This alone may have given him victory in November, but his anti-union and anti-New Deal positions frightened too many others.
November 3, 1964 saw an above-average voter turnout. President Kennedy retained his power. Despite his loss, Goldwater continued to try to change the Republican party.