“There are no second acts in American lives” has been attributed – some say misattributed – to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Antonio Delgado – as he recounts in his splendid commencement address last weekend at his alma mater, Colgate University – is a contradiction in point.
His experience as hip-hop artist AD, The Voice, which he assesses here for the first time we’ve seen, very well could have ruled him out as a prospective Congressional candidate, particularly – as he puts it – in the 19th Congressional District, which is 90 percent white.
Still, his first-rate credentials – they include a mother’s love, which he touchingly revisited in his speech – plus Colgate, Oxford and Harvard degrees. And his experience – as a litigator, not a lobbyist, he’ll tell you – with a top-flight law firm, certainly qualified him as a successor to the consensus-building Chris Gibson of Kinderhook and – projecting ahead – to the canny and effective Sherwood Boehlert of Greater Utica.
That Delgado is black was, in itself, never disqualifying in the 19th District – certainly, not in Otsego County, which – split a third, a third and a third Republican, Democrat and independent – voted twice for Barack Obama, with folks generally, if not unanimously, thrilled to do so.
Antonio Delgado is not the traditional Horatio Alger story. He had a stable family life – no orphan here – and access to a quality education.
But, at least in that most nakedly meritocratic of endeavors, running for elective office – in the end, citizens vote by secret ballot, and you either win or lose – Delgado was architect of his own success.
That brilliant “I Promise” TV spot – a mother with cancer saying John Faso broke his promise by voting against the ACA – backed by financing that allowed it to run again and again in the days before the primary – swept him to the Democratic nomination.
In his Colgate speech, he talks about “an onslaught of hate-based attacks” – the TV spots focusing on AD, The Voice. “Many wanted me to lash out in anger and to zero in on the ugliness of the attacks.” Instead, Delgado decided to lead “with my heart by extending my arms rather than crossing them.”
Maybe. Or perhaps as an Upstate New Yorker, certainly as a candidate out there on the hustings, he sensed the Faso allies – Faso steadfastly denied any connection to the ads (hmmm) – were overplaying their hand. Concluding that, the disciplined tactician in Antonio Delgado kept his mouth shut.
So there you have it. Brilliant, with credentials to prove it. Disciplined: That Delgado played on two of only three Colgate basketball teams that made it into NCAA March Madness proves it – that didn’t happen by drinking beer and cutting practice.
And tactical: The latest example is his Medicare-X bill, a combination of public coverage and private enterprise aimed at providing healthcare coverage to more Americans. It is balanced and non-provocative enough to actually go somewhere. No AOC here.
The point is, Antonio Delgado has what it takes to succeed, perhaps mightily, and in the process to benefit the 19th greatly. He may not be here long enough to be an LBJ, bringing rural electrification (broadband?) to his poverty-stricken West Texas district, but short of that … let’s see.
Notably, the thrilling word most used in Antonio’s Colgate speech was: love. Not hate or racism or all the other buzzwords that slip off lips and into print so easily these days. Love.
Scott Fitzgerald also had it wrong with another of his most famous lines, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
With love, can we row ceaselessly into the future – that’s the real American Story. And, it seems, Antonio Delgado’s story, despite complex motivations, is a contemporary extension.