The most distressing political news this morning is that Luke Letlow, recently elected to the House from Louisiana's 5th Congressional District, died last night from COVID-19. Only 41 years old, he leaves behind a wife and two young children. He was one of 61 Louisianans to die from the coronavirus Tuesday, one of 2,200 American lives now being lost each day in this frightening pandemic.
"Congressman-elect Letlow was a ninth generation Louisianan who fought passionately for his point of view and dedicated his life to public service," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "[O]ur sorrow is compounded by the grief of so many other families who have also suffered lives cut short by this terrible virus."
The pathogen sweeping the world with catastrophic effects is called a "novel" coronavirus, meaning it's new. The world's top virologists don't yet know why it fells some healthy people just approaching middle age, while others barely experience symptoms at all. They don't know why children seem resistant, why it causes blood clots in some patients, or really how to treat those infected with the virus. They have developed a vaccine, and in record time, although the government seems stymied in how to quickly scale up a mass inoculation program.
Luke Letlow himself would have been eligible for vaccination in a matter of days. He was scheduled to be sworn in to the 117th Congress next week. Instead, his family will face the grim prospect of living without him, a crucible already faced by some 337,000 American families.
God bless them all.
I've been writing historical homilies in this space five days a week since 2011. That's about 2,500 of them, I calculate, although I've had duplicates. It's time for a change. I'm not personally going anywhere, and you'll still receive a daily email from me pointing to RealClearPolitics' front page, and original content on RCP and our sister sites.
From now on, however, the Morning Note will be shorter, and more contemporaneous. I plan to use the two or three hours I spent writing it early each morning on other endeavors here in our company, including additional editing, more long-form political writing, and some investigative reporting. We also launched a book publishing venture last year as well as an in-house polling unit, both of which I'm involved with, so I'll be busy. What I won't be doing is trying to tie American history to current U.S. politics five days a week. I do plan on keeping the "quote of the week" feature alive on Fridays, although with more up-to-date quotations.
If you miss those daily lessons, I did compile 365 of them (a couple more, actually) in a book. In that collection, as well as an earlier book I wrote, some major themes emerge about the American character, as least as I understand it. The first, contra current thinking in some circles, is that our journey as a nation has been one long progression in advancing and extending Jefferson's "unalienable rights" to those once denied them.
Another, which emerges in the pages of "On This Date," is that we are a nation of problem solvers and that frequently it has been immigrants who find the solutions to the problem of the day -- one of the earliest being the problem of a free press.
Most readers have understood what I've been trying to do, which is appeal to our best and most inclusive natures. Not all readers, however: Some have trouble setting aside their own partisan considerations. I've received emails calling me such names (stripping out the profanity) that range from "right-winger" to "libtard," occasionally for the same column.
The first is an odd description to apply to someone who has praised not only progressive heroes such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Hubert Humphrey, but actual radicals like Helen Keller and Eugene Debs.
As for "libtard," I suppose there's a certain wit in a coined term combining dual insults, especially in a way that hides a word now considered a slur. Yet this complaint, too, is curious as it ignores columns lauding the contributions of an array of conservatives ranging from to Calvin Coolidge Ronald Reagan. It's true that I've been less laudatory of the current occupant of the White House, but I'd submit to a candid world that this is his fault, not mine.
Misanthropes aside, modern journalism is a two-way conversation, and I've learned much from you, my readers. There are too many to acknowledge -- hundreds, really -- but I would single out one faithful reader, my old San Jose Mercury News comrade Dana Rubin, whose own work has reminded me of the importance of including female voices in any quotation compendium.
Lastly, I do need to thank my editor, Tom Kavanagh. He prefers to toil in anonymity, but today I'm going to pull rank on him. Tom Kavanagh has saved me from numerous factual errors over the years, routinely smoothed out my prose, and arisen with me before dawn each day to make it happen. Thank you, my friend, I couldn't have done it without you.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.