In May 1963, Bull Connor turned police dogs and fire hoses on protesters in Birmingham. Technological developments enabled evening newscasts to bring the Birmingham story into Americans' living rooms.
A feeling that this was intolerable and that something must be done swept most of the nation. In June, President Kennedy went on evening television and endorsed a civil rights bill including public accommodations.
Congress had passed, after much deliberation, civil rights laws of narrower scope and lesser effect in 1957 and 1960. It proceeded with careful deliberation to pass a stronger bill this time.
The House Judiciary Committee reported a bill in November, just before Kennedy's assassination. The chairman of the Rules Committee, Howard Smith of Virginia, said he would not allow it to be considered.
Supporters sought the signatures of a majority of House members needed to bring the bill to the floor. They got them after members heard from their constituents over the winter break. The bill went to the floor in February and passed with bipartisan support, 290-130.
In the Senate, Southerners launched a filibuster that lasted 57 working days. It then required 67 votes to cut off debate. But in June, 71 senators voted for cloture and the bill passed 73-27.
Full compliance with the public accommodations section was not immediate. In Georgia, Lester Maddox closed his restaurant rather than serve blacks, and then was elected governor, narrowly, in 1966.
But after Congress acted in such deliberate fashion, and the Supreme Court upheld the law, white Southerners largely acquiesced. Traditional Southern courtesy replaced mob violence. Minds and hearts had been changed.
Obamacare has been a different story. Universal health care was promised, not to address a high-profile headline crisis, but because President Obama's twenty-something speechwriter wanted an applause line for a campaign speech.
The poorly drafted bill was passed almost entirely on party lines by exceedingly narrow margins -- and in the face of majority negative public opinion.
So it's not surprising that opponents won't accept its legitimacy or permanence. History tells us what that takes.