by Michael Barone
For political junkies of a certain age, it was a given that the House of Representatives would always be controlled by Democrats. They won the chamber in 1954 and held on for 40 years — more than twice as long as any party in American history had before.
When Sam Rayburn died at 79, more than 20 years after first becoming speaker, he was succeeded by John McCormack, 70, who was followed by Carl Albert, 68, and Tip O’Neill, an energetic 64. Every House elected from 1958 to 1992 had at least 242 Democrats, well above the 218 votes needed for a majority.
Now things are different. The Republicans won a majority in the House in 1994 and held on until 2006, the third longest period of Republican control in history; Democrats won two thumping victories in 2006 and 2008, but lost all their gains and more in the election last week. Alternation in power seems to be the new norm.
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