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Republish it! But please do not edit the piece. Also make sure that you attribute the author, and mention the article was originally published on Scholars Strategy Network. \u003Cem\u003EBy copying and pasting the markup below you will be adhering to these guidelines.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003E\u003Ca href=\u0022\/republishing-ssn-articles\u0022\u003EView additional guideline details.\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n\n \u003Ctextarea\u003E\n \u003Cdiv about=\u0022\/brief\/think-tanks-and-rise-savvy-policy-entrepreneurs\u0022 typeof=\u0022sioc:Item foaf:Document\u0022 class=\u0022ds-1col node node-brief view-mode-stealourcontent_node clearfix\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ch2\u003E\n Think Tanks and the Rise of Savvy Policy Entrepreneurs\n \u003C\/h2\u003E\u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/scholar\/thomas-medvetz\u0022\u003EThomas Medvetz\u003C\/a\u003E, University of California, San Diego\n \u003Cp\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EThe Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank based in Washington DC, has lately been in the news. Just after he was re-elected in 2012, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina voluntarily stepped down to pursue his strong conservative agenda as Heritage\u2019s new president. Why would DeMint do that? What is it about think tanks and their experts that can make them seem more influential in shaping politics than even the U.S. Senate?\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EBringing Think Tanks into Focus\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EFew organizations in American politics are both as important and as widely misunderstood as policy \u201cthink tanks.\u201d Even the most attentive observers can be at a loss to define think tanks \u2013 and for good reason. Fuzziness and ambiguity turn out to be central to the think tank phenomenon, built into their very DNA, the genetic code that makes think tanks what they are.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EThink tanks are ostensibly stand-alone organizations, formally separate from established institutions like government agencies, political parties, universities, and lobbying firms. They have resemblances and ties to all these other types of organizations, but they thrive in the blurry spaces in the interstices among all of them. Yet as soon as we begin to look for the traces of think tank activities, they are hard to miss. Think tank-affiliated \u201cpolicy experts,\u201d as they are often called, testify on Capitol Hill, write policy reports for politicians, and appear as pundits across the full spectrum of media outlets. Think tankers often make declarations \u2013 or write short policy advocacy briefs \u2013 with the authority once presumed for university-based researchers.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003ELongstanding and Bipartisan\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EHow have think tanks become political fixtures? Many presume that they proliferated only recently, driven by conservative activists who built organizations like Heritage to influence Republicans. But in fact think tanks are longstanding and operate close to both parties.\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cul class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003EIn 1992, a young Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton rose to national prominence with the support of a think tank called the Progressive Policy Institute, which funded his travels around the country and helped create his \u201cnew Democrat\u201d governing agenda.\u0026nbsp;\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003EPresident Clinton\u2019s 1996 welfare reform was influenced by Charles Murray\u2019s 1984 book \u003Cem\u003ELosing Ground\u003C\/em\u003E, a work funded and promoted by the neoconservative Manhattan Institute.\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003EKey foreign policy officials in the George W. Bush administration \u2013 including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz \u2013 hailed from the Project for the New American Century, a think thank that issued an early blueprint for the Iraq War.\u0026nbsp;\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003EMajor aspects of President Obama\u2019s health care reform were modeled after the 2006 Massachusetts law signed by Mitt Romney and conceived by the Heritage Foundation.\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003ENo contemporary political figure owes more to think tanks than Mitt Romney\u2019s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is often touted as \u201cthe intellectual leader of today\u0027s conservative\u201d Republicans. Ryan\u2019s image was burnished with the help of think tank ties \u2013 including his speechwriting for Empower America and frequent visits to the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. As Stuart Butler of Heritage explains, Ryan is a \u201cgood think-tanker-as-politician,\u201d a prominent new DC breed.\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003C\/ul\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EWhat Does It Take to be an Effective Think Tanker?\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EIn popular and scholarly writings, the image of the think tank expert oscillates between extremes. On one side is the lofty \u201cpublic intellectual,\u201d the thinker who occupies a privileged sanctuary for independent reflection. On the other side is the \u201cintellectual mercenary,\u201d the lobbyist-in-disguise whose organizational perch is merely a front for pushing an ideology or cause.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EUniversity-based scholars often presume that think tankers are PhDs who could not land regular tenured professorships. In my research, I find no evidence that think tank experts are less intellectually capable than their academic counterparts. But to focus only on intelligence is to miss the point. To excel in a think tank, a person must develop the skills and savvy to sell arguments to multiple audiences, especially politicians, journalists, and funders.\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cul class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003ETo get attention from politicians, a policy expert has to know the rhythms, languages, and stakes of policy battles and anticipate which issues will become \u201chot\u201d months in advance.\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u0026nbsp;\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003EBecause think tanks thrive on media publicity, a good think tanker must also be comfortable \u201ctalking in sound bites,\u201d as one organizational president explained.\u0026nbsp;\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli\u003E\n \u003Cspan\u003EThink tanks also compete for funding, so their experts must pry open wallets. This may mean looking for new ways to address funder agendas, or it may involve repackaging work to fit current themes. After the attacks of September 11, for example, many think tank-based experts dropped earlier topics and started proposing \u201cterrorism studies.\u201d\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003C\/ul\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EIn an interesting metaphor, one organization\u2019s president suggested to me that an effective think tank expert is like a vaudevillian who juggles, sings, tells jokes, spins plates \u2013 and then runs into the audience to applaud the performance. \u201cIf you do it right,\u201d he said, \u201call of a sudden, other people start applauding and you\u2019ve got a hit.\u201d\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EMy research has sensitized me to the savvy needed to pull off this juggling act. But I have also concluded that thank tank-sponsored \u201cpolicy research\u201d tends to generate a simplified and sometimes outright pseudo-scientific brand of knowledge. In the never-ending attempt to balance the search for truth against the demands of sponsors, the needs of politicians, and the preoccupations of journalists, think tank experts become divided against themselves. To be a good think tanker, in short, is to subordinate independent thinking grounded in rigorous research to the vagaries of shifting political and economic priorities. Think tankers may swim with skill in the swirling currents of U.S. politics, but are they helping the nation chart the right course or address the most difficult policy challenges in our time?\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-footer-comments\u0022\u003ERead more in Thomas Medvetz, \u003Cem\u003EThink Tanks in America\u003C\/em\u003E (University of Chicago Press, 2012).\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Ctable border=\u00220\u0022 align=\u0022left\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ctr\u003E\n \u003Ctd\u003E\n \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/scholarsstrategynetwork.org\u0022\u003Ewww.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\u003C\/a\u003E\n \u003C\/td\u003E\n \u003C\/tr\u003E\n \u003C\/table\u003E\n \u003Ctable border=\u00220\u0022 align=\u0022right\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ctr\u003E\n \u003Ctd\u003E\n December 2012\n \u003C\/td\u003E\n \u003C\/tr\u003E\n \u003C\/table\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003E\n \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/scholarsstrategynetwork.org\u0022\u003E\u003Cspan class=\u0022Apple-tab-span\u0022\u003E\u0026nbsp;\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/a\u003E\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n\u003C\/div\u003E \u003Cp\u003EThis article was originally published on \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/\u0022\u003EScholars Strategy Network\u003C\/a\u003E. Read the \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/brief\/think-tanks-and-rise-savvy-policy-entrepreneurs\u0022\u003Eoriginal article\u003C\/a\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cimg height=\u00221\u0022 width=\u00221\u0022 typeof=\u0022foaf:Image\u0022 src=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/stealourcontent\/track.gif?nid=1036\u0022 alt=\u0022\u0022 \/\u003E \u003C\/textarea\u003E\n\n \u003Cp\u003ECopy the above code and paste it into your website or CMS to republish.\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n"}]