Former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill coined the phrase “all politics is local.” The phrase explained what was commonly assumed to be the simplest recipe for success in American politics: regardless of the office, a politician’s success is determined by how well that politician appeals to the everyday concerns of local voters.
The truth to this formula revealed itself with the multitude of incompetent local officials who have achieved reelection time and again by simply helping their constituents navigate dysfunctional government services. I’ve often asked my friends in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Newark how
they could support obviously corrupt mayors like Marion Barry, Ray Nagin, or Sharpe James. Their answers were never based on the mayors’ achievements, but only because they had provided a civil service raise, had a pothole fixed, or helped a relative get a job.
But this formula changed during the Obama years. President Obama proved in the eyes of many that an intersectional coalition of political activists who focused on national social issues could also be successful at the state and local level. And this attracted megadonors like George Soros, who had
traditionally focused their exorbitant political financing—thanks to the Citizens United case—on congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial elections. In around 2010, Soros began shifting his PAC dollars to smaller elections, especially those for county and municipal prosecutors.
Incompetent local officials who have achieved reelection time and again by simply helping their constituents navigate dysfunctional government services.
The new strategy has since grown. Soros spent $28.3 million during the 2020 election season, including $10 million to “fight voter disenfranchisement” through mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. In recent years, he has focused a significant portion of his efforts on Pennsylvania, partnering with numerous wealthy, progressive donors from outside Pennsylvania to invest in our local elections. This strategy has resulted in the elections of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and his counterpart Jack Stollsteimer of Delaware County.
Unfortunately for local residents, the success of Soros’s election finance strategy has meant a deterioration of public safety. Murders in Philadelphia rose from 277 in 2016 to 499 in 2020, in direct correlation with Krasner’s election.
While some Republican “megadonors” exist, they rarely contribute to local races—especially in locations that are considered “blue strongholds” such as Philadelphia. This Republican shortsightedness has allowed for the runaway success of the Soros-led strategy to elect local prosecutors nationwide. If Soros can take candidates like Krasner, who had no prosecutorial experience, from a six-way primary to a victory in a general election with a heavily qualified opponent in America’s fourth-largest media market for only $1.3M—why hasn’t the state or national GOP sought out PAC donations for their own candidates for these key local races? It’s not as though there aren’t opportunities.
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For example, in 2017, Beth Grossman was, arguably, the best Republican political candidate in Philadelphia since Arlen Spector. Grossman, the daughter of a Kensington candy store owner, worked her way through Temple to join the District Attorney’s Office, lives in a rowhome, and drives a Kia Soul. In a city overwhelmed by progressive politics, she fit the bill as a potential mold breaker. By the time the general election for DA had come around, however, it was a true “David and Goliath” fight between the
underfunded working-class success story in Grossman and a rich defense attorney from Chestnut Hill who drives a Tesla and was funded by George Soros named Larry Krasner.
Despite national conservative news coverage bemoaning Krasner’s candidacy, the anemic Philly GOP offered little support, and Grossman’s numerous pleas to the state and national GOP for assistance fell on deaf ears. The result? Grossman lost by over 70% of the vote. To add insult to injury, the state GOP sought to benefit from Krasner’s win, sending fundraising emails about him and his radical policies to donors within months of the election.
If Republicans truly care about serving constituents, rebuilding their brand, saving lives, and reducing crime, it’s vital that the party and major PAC donors realize that while all politics may not be local anymore, local politics still matters.
Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and other cities have similar stories. In each, unqualified prosecutors championing radical leftist ideas and wielding significant national PAC money were elected, and their elections have been followed by skyrocketing crime.
While some Republican donors are starting to realize the mistake they’ve made in neglecting America’s cities and not investing in local elections, the GOP is still largely absent. If Republicans truly care about serving constituents, rebuilding their brand, saving lives, and reducing crime, it’s vital that the party and major PAC donors realize that while all politics may not be local anymore, local politics still matters.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @PublicSafetySME