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All politics is local

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Title: All politics is local  
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Subject: Administrative division, Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2013 February 21, Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2014 August 10
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All politics is local

The phrase, "all politics is local" is a common phrase in U.S. politics. The former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O'Neill is most closely associated with this phrase, which encapsulates the principle that a politician's success is directly tied to the person's ability to understand and influence the issues of their constituents. Politicians must appeal to the simple, mundane and everyday concerns of those who elect them into office. Those personal issues, rather than big and intangible ideas, are often what voters care most about, according to this principle. Politicians often use this against one another, as well, to hit each other where it hurts most—back at home—rather than on the floor of Congress. The concept is contrary to the notion that most people, somehow, in local elections are casting votes to "send a message" to the highest levels; instead, the principle predicts that most people will not decide who to vote for in local elections simply as a means to act on feelings about national politicians, such as concerns about a current U.S. President, but that they make decisions based on how they feel local interests are being addressed. The prediction is that most people who vote, or debate issues, are focused on resolving their local issues.

Example

During the 1982 Congressional elections, O'Neill's seat was challenged by Massachusetts lawyer Frank McNamara, who had financed most of his campaign with money from oil interests in Oklahoma and Texas. Voters in Massachusetts, plagued by oil prices and a poor economy for many years, felt no love for McNamara and his oil money and instead mocked him as he announced his candidacy on the steps of the US Capitol.

Later during those elections, O'Neill introduced a $1-billion jobs bill to the table. House Republican Leader Robert H. Michel of Peoria, Illinois opposed the bill, but O'Neill delivered an address broadcast in Peoria that showed how many infrastructure problems in Peoria would be fixed by the bill. "By hitting his rival where he lived, O'Neill translated a wholesale debate over national economic policy to the local, retail level" (Matthews 53).

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