A sentiment sometimes uttered in positive-sum games where a change in game state (the rising tide) benefits all players (all boats). Two examples:

The Stock Market
Good news about one stock can cause investors to become optimistic, buying other stocks, and thereby increasing the value of the entire market.1
The Ching! Market
If a single write-up makes it to Cream of the Cool, the other write-ups on the page will get more attention, which will result in upvotes if they're not complete crap.

Both John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton used the phrase to defend their tax plans.