Elsewhere, writes George Will:
By the time Georgia’s 6th Congressional District votes in the June 20 special election, $40 million … will have been spent to pick one-435th of one-half of one of the three branches of one of America’s governments. This is an expensive funeral for Tip O’Neill’s incessantly quoted and increasingly inapplicable axiom that "All politics is local."
In support of his argument, Will cites political scientist Andrew Gelman, who cites Newsweek's Mickey Kaus, from 2011: "One thinks of 1980, 1994 and 2008 as elections in which national issues and themes mostly predominated over local issues … [as well as ] 1998 (impeachment) and 2002 (terrorism) and 2006 (Iraq War) … In other words, every midterm for the last two decades has been inexorably nationalized. Including this one ."
Or, for that matter, on the presidential level, 1932, or 1860, or 1800.
I have never subscribed to O'Neill's localism as the dominant feature of triumphant politics on the national level. Indeed their blind adherence to localism (again, "one thinks of ") is perhaps what has cost congressional Democrats so many seats. Republicans recognized long ago that electoral passions were more easily stirred over the Big Issues of war, fiscal policy, the nation's healthcare system and the like. Democrats tended to run from these issues, fearing a backlash against Republican-defined "liberalism." Democrats were always free to redefine "conservatism" as what it had become — its opposite, radicalism — but again they were fearful of nationalizing the debate, of aggressively educating voters everywhere.
Trump, it would seem, is remedying such fears — just as W., in a rare instance of Democrats' nationalization of politics, had done by 2006. Maybe this time Democrats will learn the lesson for good: that polarization is forcing a kind of parliamentary system on congressional politics, wherein localism is, as Will rightly observes, "increasingly inapplicable."