Michael Barone
Many Democrats are genuinely puzzled about Republicans' continuing opposition to Obamacare. It is the law of the land, these Democrats say. Critics should accept it, as critics accepted Medicare.

They should work constructively and across the aisle with Democrats to repair any flaws and make the law work to help people.

Historical analogies are often useful, but can be misleading. Certainly so in this case: Republicans, like it or not, are behaving differently from the way they behaved after the passage of Medicare in 1965.

To understand why there is continued resistance to Obamacare and why majorities of voters continue to oppose it in polls, a different historical analogy is helpful.

It is an example of a law that was bitterly opposed but that was accepted by opponents to a much greater extent than even many of its advocates expected: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The most controversial provision of the law was Title II, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accommodations -- hotels, motels, restaurants and theaters. This overturned Southern state laws requiring racial segregation in such facilities.

There was good reason to believe that this law would be hard to enforce in practice, as recent experience of the Freedom Riders showed.

Starting in May 1961, civil rights groups organized biracial groups to ride on interstate bus lines in the South. Segregated interstate transportation had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1946, but Southern states ignored the ruling.

Freedom Riders were physically attacked with baseball bats and bicycle chains in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. Birmingham police chief Bull Connor (then a Democratic National Committeeman) organized mob attacks. A bus was firebombed near Anniston, Ala.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy called for a "cooling off period." The Kennedy administration eventually got Southern governors to provide police escorts for Freedom Ride buses and not to interfere if the Riders were arrested.

I have often wondered what the politicians and journalists who favored equal rights but urged civil rights protesters to go slowly were thinking. They must have believed that protests would provoke violence, and that most of the people hurt would be black.

Surely many of those who supported desegregating public accommodations must have feared widespread noncompliance and continuing violence. But in fact these things did not happen to any great extent.

Why not? The way the law was passed.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM