Liberalism -- it is well to recall this today -- is the supreme form of generosity; it is the right which the majority concedes to minorities and hence it is the noblest cry that has ever resounded in this planet. It announces the determination to share existence with the enemy; more than that, with an enemy which is weak.
The liberal holds that he is true to the republic when he is true to himself. (It may not be as cozy an attitude as it sounds.) He greets with enthusiasm the fact of the journey, as a dog greets a man's invitation to take a walk. And he acts in the dog's way too, swinging wide, racing ahead, doubling back, covering many miles of territory that the man never traverses, all in the spirit of inquiry and the zest for truth. He leaves a crazy trail, but he ranges far beyond the genteel old party he walks with and he is usually in a better position to discover a skunk.
The principle feature of American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things -- war and hunger and date rape -- liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things. It's a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don't have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.
The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics,that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.As cited in Losing Legitimacy: Street Crime and the Decline of Social Institutions in America by Gary LaFree 1998 : Moynihan is quoted in an article that appeared in Mickey Kaus, The Work Ethic State, The New Republic (1986) July 7:22-33, 23; Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Family and Nation: The Godkin Lectures (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986).