Sometimes the world seems totally different, when it is actually completely the same.
I was reading Sean Davis Cashman's America in the Gilded Age (research for a possible book), when I came across an account of a conflict the urban reformer and founder of Chicago's Hull House, Jane Addams, had with a corrupt local boss, Johnny "DePow" Powers. She wanted to clean the streets of trash, and so launched two campaigns, in 1896 and 1898, to unseat him. She failed both times. As Cashman puts it:
She discovered she could not compete with his reputation for generosity. He boasted that 2,600 ward residents owed their city jobs to him. He distributed railroad passes, Christmas dinners, and free coal. Ordinary people could appreciate such minuscule largess without realizing that they usually paid for it in the extortionate street railway fares Powers secured for his allies, the railway companies. Ironically, they prefered his top hat and opulent life-style to the cloth caps and austere behavior of Addams's candidates.
That "irony", if such it is, will always be with us. The popular politician who lives large and crushes more virtuous opponents is a staple of democratic politics, from Alcibiades's day to this.