Don’t Credit score the Filibuster for Civil-Rights Laws

In “The Filibuster Made Civil Rights Act Possible” (published April 12), David Hoppe looks at history through the wrong end of the telescope. Far from demonstrating the workings of a large advisory body, the filibuster has been used for decades to hamper civil rights legislation and maintain segregation. More than the courtesy of Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield to segregationist colleagues, it was the Kennedy assassination, television shows about violence against civil rights demonstrators, and ultimately Senator Everett Dirksen’s ability to win the support of other Republicans that stood up to the filibuster .

Cloture was voted through to break the filibuster by four votes, but the Civil Rights Act sponsors didn’t take any chances. Senator Clare Engel, who was about to die from a brain tumor and could not speak, pointed to his eye to record a “yes” voice. The filibuster doesn’t just slow down legislation or create consensus. it enables minority opposition to suppress democracy.

Daniel E. Carson

Mamaroneck, NY

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