Blum's Prayer

Ed Blum

A Prayer for the Democratic Party – from W. E. B. Du Bois (ca. 1910):

“It is never too late to mend. Nothing is so bad that good may not be put into it and make it better and save it from utter loss. Strengthen in us this knowledge and faith and hope, O God, in these last days. Amen.”

With the imminent delegate victory for Barack Obama, it appears that a time of healing is necessary for the Democratic Party. Last summer, I penned an article for History News Network about what the Democratic Party could learn about religion from the life and writings of W. E. B. Du Bois. I hope that the party, especially the more energetic followers of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, will heed these words. Du Bois prayed with his students at Atlanta University in the early twentieth century. I think they give us hope not only in the struggle against racism and misogyny, but also in the efforts for political alliance. Once again, we have so much to learn from the supposedly agnostic left.


Edward J Blum at: June 3, 2008 at 10:54 AM said...
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John G. Turner at: June 3, 2008 at 12:03 PM said...

I know all my Democratic friends worry that their party will self-destruct this year, but it's such a down year for the GOP that I think prayers may be unnecessary. No supernatural assistance needed.

Jeremy Young at: June 3, 2008 at 12:59 PM said...

Ed, I'll take your word for it that healing's what's needed at this time. But it's perhaps more difficult for me this year than ever before, even though I'm not a particularly strong supporter of Obama. Recall that this is the first time an anti-establishment candidate has beaten the establishment candidate in the Democratic primary since George McGovern's victory in 1972. This is payback for Kerry's push-polling against Dean for having a Jewish family in 2004; for Clinton's defeat of Tsongas in 1992; for the losses of Paul Simon, Bruce Babbitt, and Jesse Jackson in 1988. And I have trouble seeing the Hillary supporters crying victimhood as any different from Marie Antoinette mourning the loss of her palace.

Joanna Brooks at: June 3, 2008 at 1:31 PM said...

Obama believer here. Thanks, Ed. After another less-than-stellar week of rhetoric from (a white man acting out behind one of the black) pulpits of Chicago, it is wonderful to have a reminder of the dignity, power, and grace of the African-American religious tradition. Joanna Brooks

Manlius at: June 3, 2008 at 1:41 PM said...

It's great to think of WEB DuBois as a healer - that's a side of him I don't normally contemplate.

As for Barack Obama, it seems to me that he's a man of contradictions, and I don't mean that pejoratively. He's more liberal than most Democrats, but also less statist. He can sound ideological at times, but you get a sense that at heart he's really more a pragmatist. He's very religious, but is obviously comfortable expressing himself in a secular way. He connects with the language of struggle, but not in a way that excludes the language of hope and optimism.

It will be interesting to see how the American electorate will eventually respond to him. Either his apparent contradictions will be easily exploited and paralyze his candidacy, or they will allow him to expand his appeal.

I go back and forth as to which way it will go. Whatever the case, it'll be fun to watch.

Manlius at: June 3, 2008 at 1:48 PM said...

One more thing: I think Obama is fortunate to be running against McCain. A typical liberal vs. conservative race might be tough for him, even though it is a Democratic year. By running against a guy seen more as a centrist (except on the war, and in that case he's not helped anyway), Obama can frame the debate more in terms of what type of leader we want.

I guess what McCain needs is good news out of Iraq and success in making the "lack of experience card" stick to Obama. Otherwise, he's toast.

Jason Bivins at: June 3, 2008 at 1:57 PM said...

I’m not as sanguine as John is that McCain will lose this November (though if Mac is as gosh-golly shy as Karl Rove would have us believe – wait, he was a POW? Who knew?!? – he’ll need to campaign harder). At this point, the Democratic party seems to me – after several decades during which they’ve transformed from mere technocratic bumblers, wandering away from anything resembling the Left (or at times even liberalism), into something like the GOP’s unctuous sidekick, whose crowning achievement was Bill Clinton’s completion (in all but name) of the “Reagan revolution” – to be not so much worthy of anyone’s prayers as needing a kind of ideological penitence of its own. I know Ed’s point was not to defend the DNC or anything like that, and his excellent post strikes the right tone. I wish I could be as optimistic or hopeful as DuBois and Blum; but like Bunyan, I keep seeing ways to Hell even from the gates of Heaven. As I rubberneck past the burning highway wreck this primary has become, perhaps what I’m most willing to hope for is a substantive exchange of ideas rather than the resounding of endlessly repeated slogans in the American resonance chamber. But then again, that may in fact be hoping for a lot more than five months of Dem harmony.

John G. Turner at: June 3, 2008 at 2:07 PM said...

I've enjoyed reading some media analyses comparing the present campaign to those of 1976 and 1980, such as:

I think McCain's problem is twofold:
1) He never had the support of the conservative base, so he's spent the last few months trying to shore up his support there. As Matt Sutton suggests in his HNN article, that hasn't been very successful, and McCain hasn't gone about it the right way. Conservatives still aren't enthusiastic about McCain.
2) By needing to shore up his conservative bona fides, he's enabled Obama and the Dems to paint him as Bush III. So he's going to have a tough time with independents as well.

I think David Brooks has it mostly right in this column:

But I just can't see McCain overcoming a shaky economy and a president whose unpopularity leaving office just nudges out Richard Nixon.

John G. Turner at: June 3, 2008 at 2:07 PM said...

And I appreciate Jeremy's reference to 1992 -- I was a big Paul Tsongas fan that year.

Manlius at: June 3, 2008 at 3:03 PM said...

I remember well how much you loved Tsongas, John. You turned me on to him, too, if you recall. (I live the in a district represented by his widow Niki. She's not as good as Paul, though.) Ah, Tsongas, Rudman, the Concord Coalition - where are those types now when we need them?

John G. Turner at: June 3, 2008 at 3:31 PM said...


If I'm not mistaken, I actually spent some money to join the ill-fated Concord Coalition.

Manlius at: June 3, 2008 at 4:19 PM said...

John G. Turner, you're on the Concord Coalition board of directors!

Now how strange is that?

Look at this site ( and scroll down to find a photo and brief of your namesake. I'd venture to say that while he probably has more money, you definitely have a sunnier disposition. :)

Manlius at: June 3, 2008 at 4:22 PM said...

Sorry, I meant to say "brief bio" and the full URL of the second site is

The Crucible at: June 4, 2008 at 10:39 AM said...

Amen. It's time for healing.

I played this entire CD at my wedding and reception.
Time for Healing

Owen at: June 5, 2008 at 10:19 AM said...

I appreciate your reminded of Du Bois' powerful words. It is important for the Democratic party to heal so as to soundly defeat the Republican party at the polls in November. It's not wise for the Democrats to discount his chances just because W's popularity ratings and the economy are shaky. As preposterous as McCain seems to liberals, McCain's rhetoric resonates deeply with the heart of middle America. I've talked with many friends and family in rural America who will vote for him, even though he's struggled with his conservative message. They'd rather vote for a questionable Republican than a mixed race Democrat. Which I think interestingly takes us back to Du Bois and his constant--and very neccesary--reminder of the power of race in American society.

phil at: June 5, 2008 at 11:36 AM said...

And Du Bois continues....

"In the midst of life and deeds it is easy to have endurance and strength and determination, but Thy Word, O Lord, teaches us, that this is not enough to bring good to the world--to bring happiness and the worthier success. For this we must endure to the end--learn to finish things--to bring them to accomplishment and full fruition. We must not be content with plans, ambitions, resolves; with part of a message or part of an education, but be set and determined to fulfill the promise and complete the task and secure the full training. Such men and women alone does God save by lifting them above and rising them to higher worlds and wider prospects. Give us then, O God, to resist today the temptation of shirking, and the grit to endure to the end. Amen." (p. 27, W.E.B. Du Bois, _Prayers for Dark People_, ed. H. Aptheker)

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