Antonio Delgado is young–41.
He graduated with honors from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, earning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.
He earned a law degree from Harvard.
Now he is running for a House seat representing New York’s 19th congressional district.
Despite these traits, he apparently does not “reflect our lifestyle and values,” according to some critics.
What is it about Delgado that fails to conform to expectations?
What has so many, including his Republican incumbent challenger, John Faso, so alarmed?
In 2006, a social justice rapper named “AD the Voice” recorded an album titled “Painfully Free” on which appeared songs criticizing the Iraq war, capitalism, and the American two-party system, as well as explores topics ranging from poverty to religion. One track calls dead presidents “white supremacists;” another calls blacks modern-day slaves.
So this is what motivated Gerald Benjamin, director of the Benjamin Center at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and Rep. Faso’s friend, to tell the New York Times:
“Is a guy who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyle and values? People like us, people in rural New York, we are not people who respond to this part of American culture.”
Rep. Faso feels Delgado is so out of touch, he commented:
“The tone and tenor of his lyrics, as reported, are not consistent with the views of most people in our district, nor do they represent a true reflection of our nation. Mr. Delgado’s lyrics paint an ugly and false picture of America.”
But do they, or is Mr. Delgado’s foray into politics just providing Republicans another opportunity to engage in hackneyed racial dog whistles in an attempt to “otherize” a qualified African American candidate?
Delgado contends the latter.
He argues his lyrics merely reflect integral issues he plans to raise in Congress.
He told the Times:
“It was different contexts, different tactics, but same desires and same outcomes. Issues like income inequality, issues like gender equality, issues like the pollution of our environment and climate change — these are all issues that I talked about back then as an artist that I’m now talking about.”
He told the Times Herald-Record via email:
“My decision to pursue a career in hip-hop was consistent with hip-hop’s long and rich history of addressing the social and racial injustices that plague America. If you listen to the content of the lyrics, my mission is clear.”
In a telephone interview, he added Faso’s attack is “right out of the political playbook of the right to play to stereotypes,” adding:
“Any attempt to turn me into a right-wing caricature of a hip-hop artist is going to fail, because it’s not who I am, and the voters of NY-19 have shown that they know better.”
Faso is facing a backlash from many of his constituents for, in what a dozen clergy members told the congressman in a letter, is “a thinly veiled, racist attack for the purpose of insinuating fear in the voters in our district.”
One of the letter’s authors, Rabbi Yael Romer, Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley, in Kingston, said:
“I find it reprehensible that any group would use this kind of tactic in an attempt to elect a candidate.”
But Faso isn’t Delgado’s only critic.
The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is a House Republican Leadership-endorsed super political action committee (Super PAC) working to maintain Republican hegemony over the House.
Courtney Alexander of the CLF said in a press release:
“From attacking America’s founding principles as ‘inherently flawed’ to minimizing the 9/11 tragedy, AD the Voice used his raps to make his explosive, out-of-touch, liberal views clear. Considering that if elected to Congress, AD the Voice would back tax hikes on hardworking families and support Washington, D.C., control of health care, the extreme views he represents would probably fit better in New York City or San Francisco, not NY-19.”
Notice what Alexander does here. She does not use Delgado’s name, but refers to him, instead, by his hip-hop sobriquet.
In a statement, Antonio Delgado said:
“The mission of my music was clear–to speak to and inspire folks who have felt shut out and ignored by a broken political system, as so many people here at home still do. I’m disappointed that John Faso and his allies would stoop this low to use stereotypes and lies… I call on John Faso to immediately disavow these divisive attacks.”
Will Faso disavow his divisive attacks in favor of a clean campaign centered around the issues “AD the Voice” exercised his first-amendment right to freedom of expression to explore?
Or will the Mercer-backed congressman base his campaign over the next four months on dirty ad hominem attacks?
New York’s 19th congressional district is located in the eastern portion of the state, and includes Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster counties, as well as parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.
Image credit: Hudson Valley One