A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 02, 2011
Retail Politics

"Retail politics” means when a politician meets the people directly and appeals for their votes, as opposed to a “wholesale politics” campaign using paid media and meeting privately with political leaders. The term “retail politics” (in this sense) was first used in March 1972 regarding the New Hampshire presidential primary and is still popularly used in the New Hampshire primary.

There are a few (rare) earlier citations for “retail politics,” comparing politics to a retail business.


Dictionary.com
retail politics
— n
informal ( functioning as plural ) the practice of a politician soliciting in person for votes from the public

(Oxford English Dictionary)
retail politics n. chiefly U.S.  (a) depreciative the conducting of politics as if it were a retail business (rare); (b) a style of political campaigning in which the candidate targets voters on a small-scale or individual basis, typically by attending small meetings and local events.
1901 Chicago Daily Tribune 23 Sept. 6/7 He has only commercial instinct to see that while his own vote is worth only $5, a ‘block’ of ten votes is worth not $50, but a ‘job’ which will pay him, say $1,000 a year. This is retail politics.
1972 Washington Post 5 Mar. a20/1 ‘There isn’t anything I could do in the next few days, in two or three days of retail politics,’ said the senator, riding over icy roads to a speaking engagement.
2001 K. Marton Hidden Power viii. 223 She was good door-to-door. He couldn’t do that. He wasn’t much good at retail politics.

Google News Archive
9 March 1972, Bangor (ME) Daily News, “Will Stick By battle Plan, Muskie Says” by Kent Ward, pg. 1, col. 4:
An understanding by McGovern that he must engage in “retail politics” in a state the size of New Hampshire; that is, get out meet the voters.

16 March 1972, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, “Change of Strategy in the Muskie Camp?” by Jules Witcover, pg. 6A, col. 4:
One reason for Muskie’s poor Florida showing, these aides said yesterday, was his inability to spend enough time in the state to match the “retail politics”—personal voter contact—that helped Gov. George C.Wallace of Alabama and Sens. Hubert H. Humphrey, of Minnesota, and Henry M. Jackson of Washington to run ahead of him.

5 May 1972, New York (NY) Times, “Gain for McGovern and Wallace” by R. W. Apple, Jr., pg. 26:
He (George McGovern—ed.) could not rely there, as he did in New Hampshire, on the “retail politics” of meeting voters one at a time, and he could not fall back on anti-war sentiment, as he did in Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

Google Books
Marathon:
The pursuit of the presidency 1972 - 1976

By Jules Witcover
New York, NY: Viking
1977
Pg. 215:
Wallace had been expected to bypass most caucus states and focus on the primaries, where retail politics—going directly to the voters with the candidate—figured to be efective.
Pg. 231:
In retail politics, the candidate himself must bear a heavy burden. It was imperative for any candidate serious about New Hampshire (with the exception, of course, of the incumbent President) not simply to go there but to go there often, and to work the voters as if they were constituents in a precinct or neighborhood election.

Google Books
Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections
By William C. Binning, Larry E. Esterly, Paul A. Sracic
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press
1999
Pg. 359:
RETAIL POLITICS refers to person-to-person campaigning by the candidate. Retail politics has been practiced by presidential candidates in the early primaries and caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire. In the years leading up tothoseearly events, the candidates spent time in those two states, cultivating the party activists with personal contact. (...) Emphasizing expensive media buys is referred to as wholesale politics.

Google Books
Hardball:
How politics is played—told by one who knows the game

By Chris Matthews
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
1999
Pg. 26:
In the years ahead I would come to appreciate how Johnson’s mastery of person-to-person dealings, what professionals refer to as retail politics, worked so well in the world of Congress and why it works so well in other organizations.

OCLC WorldCat record
UNITED STATES - The joy of retail politics
Publisher: London : [Economist Newspaper Ltd., 1843-
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: The economist. 354, no. 8154, (2000): 51
Database: ArticleFirst

OCLC WorldCat record
W.T.O.—yes or no : Retail politics for the rest of us.
Author: Stephen Clarkson; Pete Daniel; Lee Hamilton; Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.; Public Radio International.
Publisher: [Washington, DC] : Public Radio International, [2000]
Edition/Format:  Audiobook on CD : CD audio : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The Effects of Retail Politics in the New Hampshire Primary
Author: Lynn Vavreck; Constantine J. Spiliotes; Linda L. Fowler
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: American Journal of Political Science, 46, no. 3 (2002): 595
Database: ArticleFirst

OCLC WorldCat record
Retail Politics Alive and Well: Large media buys have limited effectiveness in sparsely populated states - Montana, which has about 900,000 residents, and other states with small populations, are among the last bastions where big media such as television and radio advertising do not dominate the political landscape. People are often unwilling to show their loyalty at the ballot box if an office-seeker does not show up in person.
Author: David Mark
Publisher: [Washington, D.C., Votenet Solutions, Inc., etc.]
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: Campaigns & elections. 26, no. 8, (2005): 30
Database: ArticleFirst

Google Books
A Glossary of U.S. Politics and Government
By Alex Thomson
Stanford, CA: Stanford Law and Politics
2007
Pg. 150:
retail politics Political strategies and campaigns that are aimed at selling a candidate and policies to a broad, mass audience. Issues are generalised, and actions designed to generate mass appreal. The opposite of “retail politics” is “wholesale politics”, where strategies are more focused, and tailored to appeal to a select group of more demanding customers/voters/interests.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, December 02, 2011 • Permalink