Quest for a Majority
July 15, 2011
The following letter, written by Stonehill Political Science Professor and Director of the Martin Institute Peter Ubertaccio, appeared in the Washington Post's Letters To The Editor section.
The June 27 front-page article "Pelosi's crusade: 'Win it back'" said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "is the first former speaker since Sam Rayburn, more than half a century ago, to remain in the House as the head of her party and to fight to get her majority back."
However, the last speaker to lose a majority in the House and return to the position of minority leader was not Rayburn but his good friend and Republican colleague Joseph Martin.
Rayburn and Martin would exchange the speaker's chair for the minority leader's position after the elections of 1946, 1948, 1952 and 1954, when Martin returned to the minority leader's position for the final time. After two additional defeats in congressional elections, the GOP caucus revolted against Martin in 1958 and installed Charles Halleck as minority leader. Martin would later lose a fight for renomination to Congress in 1966.
Speakers Joe and Sam had marked political differences, but their quest for a majority in the House never harmed their friendship or diminished their respect for each other or the institution they sought to lead, a significant contrast to the caustic tone of today's politics.
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