Are all Politics Local? Reflection on Activism


Tip O’Neill’s phrase “all politics are local” supports the idea that a politician’s success is tied to his ability to understand and influence the issues of his constituents (Gelman 2011). It makes the claim that a politician will tend to personal everyday concerns that are on voters’ radars instead of nationalized issues. Members of Congress will put controlling their state’s redistricting over controlling national tides (Gelman 2011).

I do agree that some politics are local. For example, grass-roots lobbying can have a significant impact on policy and legislative progress. Advocacy organizations and social movements have the power to influence the decisions and priorities of their state representatives. In the United States we have seen political success as a result of protest movements such as Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, and Occupy Wall Street. These movements all began at the individual level and lead to legislative change at the national level. I would also argue that the decisions of congressional members are shaped by the demands of their constituents with the goal of maintaining seats and furthering political careers.

One obvious example of influential activism in the Middle East is the Arab Spring. This local activism has spread to a regional dimension by influencing foreign policy approaches of new regimes (Perthes 2012). These revolts have sparked a transformation of the Arab League into a regional organization that is no longer hesitant to getting involved with the internal affairs of member-states (Perthes 2012). Tunisia is an important example of the success of the Arab Spring. The first government overthrow of the Arab Spring lead to the a new democratic process and a new constitution in the Tunisian government. However, success stories are not the only proof of political influence beginning at the local level. The experience of civil wars and counterrevolutions in other Arab countries also shows the impact of individual activism on politics. The Arab Spring began on a local level and spread to not only a national but a regional dimension.

However, I would argue that not all politics are local. The United States has seen a rise in partisanship causing voters to vote along party lines instead of regional or state lines (Lauter 2015). Incumbents are no longer supported based off of issues and popularity but instead on their party affiliation. Because of this phenomena, local issues matter less in House and Senate elections.





Gelman, Andrew. “All Politics Is Local? The Debate and the Graphs.” The New York Times. 2011. Accessed October 03, 2016.

Lauter, David. “Rising partisanship among voters is ‘nationalizing’ local politics.” Los Angeles Times. Accessed October 03, 2016.
Perthes, Volker. “The Arab Revolts in Year Two.” OpenDemocracy. Accessed October 03, 2016.



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