Michael Kinsley argues in Sunday's LA Times that "the Republicans are the party of ideas and the Democrats are the party of reaction". Though Mark Thoma disagrees, plenty of rich Democrats seem to concur. The Democrat's disastrous Presidential loss last year has prompted almost a hundred progressive plutocrats to offer $1 million apiece to bolster their case. Thomas B. Edsall reported in Sunday's Washington Post that Rich Liberals Vow to Fund Think Tanks.
At least 80 wealthy liberals have pledged to contribute $1 million or more apiece to fund a network of think tanks and advocacy groups to compete with the potent conservative infrastructure built up over the past three decades. The money will be channeled through a new partnership called the Democracy Alliance, which was founded last spring... Many influential Democratic contributors were left angry and despairing over the party's poor showing in last year's elections, and are looking for what they hope will be more effective ways to invest their support.
I'm sure more money would help. But as research I discussed back in March suggests, liberal think tanks suffer from other problems:
* too much focus on projects, rather than ideas
* a lack of nimbleness - inability to redirect resources quickly
* a desire for neutral, 'balanced' research
* too little organisational support.
These may in the end prove more of a barrier than funding. Blimpish, in his comments on my earlier piece, favours a simpler explanation: liberals are a bit flabby and their ideas weak.
Not to get too dialectic in my explanations, but I think a lot of this comes down to having to be sharp. For decades, conservatives (especially in the US) have been fighting against the mainstream and so had to refine their ideas and their means of communications. Liberals have until recently had it quite easy, and so have grown a bit flabby. There's now a turning of the tables - and in that situation, the biggest risk is for liberals to get defensive and refuse to review their ideas.