The Left Needs a Moynihan Moment

Will the Trump presidency finally force Democrats to abandon their faith in the power of the federal government?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a liberal who wasn’t above challenging orthodoxy, for which he occasionally found himself in trouble. His 1965 report on the decline of the black family earned him the enmity of a generation of civil rights activists. They accused him of “victim blaming.” His 1993 American Scholar article, “Defining Deviancy Down,” which argued that American communities had come to regard formerly aberrant behavior as normal, brought angry rejoinders from fellow New York Democrats like David Dinkins and Charles Rangel. Moynihan had another late-in-life departure from the progressive canon that was less noticed, though perhaps equally profound. A powerful and well-funded federal government, he realized, was counterproductive to liberalism’s aims. Those politicians and protesters across the country pledging “resistance” to President Trump’s agenda would do well to learn this lesson.