Origin of "All Politics Is Local" (attention Rachel Maddow)

“Republicans are running nationally. Democrats are running locally. Which is why, even if you’ve never heard of Scott McAdams, you sure as heck have heard of Joe Miller. It is quite possible you have never heard of Chris Coons, but you have definitely heard of Christine O’Donnell. Even if you onl get your news from Saturday Night Live. I do not raise this issue in order to quibble with the ‘All politics is local’ truism. But that quote was supposedly coined by former Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill–in the 1930s.”–Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Shw, MSNBC, September 27, 2010.

Maddow pointed out that Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s web page states support from South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and Erick Erickson (“Who I think lives at CNN”). TRMS took “All Politics Is Local” and named the segment “All Politics Used To Be Local.”

I would point out to Maddow that Christine O’Donnell is running for UNITED STATES SENATOR. Joe Miller is running for UNITED STATES SENATOR. These are national positions in the federal government–not the state government or the local government.

The biggest issue people are concerned about is jobs. They’re concerned about the economy. They’re concerned about the national debt. These are national issues, not state issues.

If Republicans want to run nationally, so be it. If Democrats want to run locally, promising federal pork (from a bankrupt Uncle Sam) to their individual districts, so be it. There is a reason why Democrats want to run locally and don’t want to be seen with President Barack Obama. There is a reason for the tea party. The reason is that people believe that government has gotten out of control and is headed for a crash and burn.

So, I have my quibbles about her opening segment.

Now, about the origin of the phrase “All politics is local.” It was not coined by Tip O’Neill.

My name is Barry Popik, and I’m a friendly scholar of Americanisms. I offer my services to anyone (Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck, The New York Times, etc.) for free, in the simple belief that our history must be correctly told. I’m a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, and Yale Book of Quotations. My website has over 5,300 entries and contains a Political Glossary.

“All politics is local” was used by Washington AP bureau chief Byron Price in 1932. Tip O’Neill first used the term in 1935, when he entered politics.

Please make the correction. I am also a consultant to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink, who is known for researching everything from the “Rachel Sandwich” (a “Reuben” variant) to the Bloody Mary, from the “hamburger” to the “hot dog” to the “foot long.” (Nightline just did a piece about “footlong hamburgers.”)

Also, please eliminate the Erick Erickson jokes. Thanks.

From my website:

Entry from June 13, 2009
“All politics is local”
“All politics is local” is a popular political saying, most often associated with House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. (1912-1994). O’Neill used the saying in his first political campaign, in 1935.

Byron Price (1891-1981), the Associated Press’s Washington bureau chief and author of the newspaper column “Politics at Random,” wrote “politics is local” and “all politics is local politics” in February 1932, and “all politics is local in the last analysis” in July 1932. Price likely coined and/or popularized the saying.

Wikipedia: Byron Price
Byron Price (1891-1981) was director of the Office of Censorship for the United States government during World War II. For his role, he was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. After the war he was appointed as the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations. In 1946, President Harry S. Truman presented Byron Price with the Medal for Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services as Director, Office of Censorship, from December 20, 1941, until August 15, 1945.” After his tenure he served as vice-president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame
Byron Price
Inducted 1979
On March 25, 1891, Byron Price was born in Topeka, Indiana, a rural, Amish-Mennonite community in North Central Indiana.
In 1922, Price was promoted to news editor of the Washington Bureau and then in 1927 was made chief of that bureau. After ten years as chief of the Washington AP office, in 1937, the AP’s general manager chose him to be executive news editor of the entire organization. He served in that position, with headquarters in New York City, until 1941.
For many years, he wrote a twice weekly column for the Associated Press entitled “Politics at Random,” and a column for Sunday papers, “The Week in Washington.”

The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT; Yale University Press
Pg. 566:
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.
U.S. politician, 1912-1994
“All politics is local.”
Quoted in Wall Street Journal, 6 Dec. 1976. Although this line is associated with O’Neill, it appeared much earlier, such as in the Frederick (Md.) News, 1 July 1932.

Boston College – John J. Burns Library
Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Papers
Biographical Note
In 1935 O’Neill entered political life with his first campaign, trying for a seat on the Cambridge City Council as a Senior at Boston College. This was his first and only loss. This was the campaign in which O’Neill learned that “People like to be asked” and “All politics is local.” In November of the next year, 1936, after graduating from Boston College, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the first of 25 consecutive elections spanning 50 years of public service. The Great Depression had hurt his constituents and O’Neill became a strong advocate of New Deal liberalism.

Google News Archive
16 February 1932, Sarasota (FL) Herald, “Politics at Random” by Byron Price (Chief of Bureau, The Associated Press. Washington), pg. 7, col. 3:
What appears above is no attempt to support or deny the justice of the arguments made against Smith. It is an attempt solely to show how a lot of seemingly unrelated facts have brought about a rather surprising result.

It all emphasizes again that it is the little rills of political action far back in unsung precincts which go to make up the mighty stream of national political action.

In its last essence all politics is local politics, and every ward and township politician is looking for the combination which will help him at home.

Google News Archive
2 July 1932, Florence (AL) Times, pg. 1, col. 5:
(Chief of Bureau, The Associated Press, Washington)
Why does the bandwagon exert such a pull in the political scene? It is not merely sentiment and enthusiasm. The varying facets of political belief, patronage and prestige all play in the general picture, but all politics is local in the last analysis, and local considerations come first.

Google Books
Politics Is Your Business
By William Henry Baumer and Donald G. Herzberg
New York, NY: Dial Press
Pg. 116:
The underlying principle of the Chamber workshop is a belief that politics is organized group action and that politics is local.

Google Books
24 December 1973, New York magazine, “The Man Who Could Push Richard Nixon Over the Edge” by Martin F. Nolan, pg. 42, col. 3:
Although O’Neill subscribes to the adage that all politics is local, he doesn’t worry about being overshadowed by a fellow Bay Stater.

Google Books
A History of Iowa
By Leland Livingston Sage
Published by The Iowa State University Press
Pg. 318:
But, as it was observed many years ago, all politics is local politics, and, it might be added, personal politics.

Google Books
All politics is local, and other rules of the game
By Tip O’Neill with Gary Hymel
New York, NY: Times Books
Pg. ?:
“All politics is local” is probably the lesson most assoicated with me. Actually, my father first told it to me and it helped me greatly along along the line. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and repeat it, giving me the credit.

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