Where were you on June 10, 1964?
What were you doing, what were you thinking, what were you talking about?
You may not have been born; you may have been very young. I remember June 10, 1964, clearly. I was 14, a Southern white boy teetering on the edge of adolescence, thinking ahead to high school and girls—and dimly realizing that the world as I knew it was about to change forever.
On June 10, 1964, 71 U.S. Senators voted to end debate on the proposed Civil Rights Act of 1964. The CRA is the law that ended Southern apartheid, revolutionizing life in my segregated backwater region. It was also the first civil-rights measure in history to pass after a Senate vote on “cloture”—a two-thirds vote to end debate—ended a Southern filibuster.
By the end of this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will almost certainly invoke the “nuclear option” and force a vote to abolish the privilege of “unlimited debate”—in less highfalutin words, the filibuster—on presidential Supreme Court nominations. This will allow a majority vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia.
If I were a senator, I would vote no on Gorsuch. I was on the fence until I saw his show of contempt for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the public during his confirmation hearings. I also think his seat was, as critics say, stolen from a sitting president, Barack Obama, in defiance of constitutional norms and simple good citizenship. I am glad that the Democrats have united to register their fierce opposition to the way the Republican Party has annexed the Court to its nakedly partisan politics.