Daniel Patrick Moynihan Was Often Right. Joe Klein on Why It Still Matters.

By Joe Klein

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York said during a lecture at Harvard in 1986. “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Moynihan, an apostle of complexity, lived at the intersection of those two truths, a place where he was free to become one of the most creative American thinkers of the late 20th century. He sensed, and then came to know, that the social problems of what was being called “postindustrial” society would be different from those that came before. He identified these problems, sometimes controversially. In so doing, he predicted the dislocations of the 21st century with uncanny accuracy. He did it with elegance and wit and — this may be a surprise — transcendent humility. His spot-on sense of what truly mattered deserves to be revisited now, if we’re to grope our way past the mess we’ve become as a society.

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