Los Republicanos: Daddy Yankee and John McCain

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published in two parts at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

In what I’m guessing is a attempt to look young and hip John McCain, 71, continued his efforts to reach out to the Latina/o community by inviting reggaetonero Daddy Yankee to his campaign headquarters on Saturday afternoon.

Considering El Cangri’s sometimes raunchy lyrics and hustlin’ past it seems like a weird political coupling. “I don’t know anything about Daddy Yankee,” said McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace. Great.

Supposedly McCain and Daddy Yankee first met when they were both named two of the 100 most influential people of 2006 by Time magazine.

According to Yankee “He invited me to have a brief conversation on how we can improve the living conditions in Hispanic communities.” The two were said to have discussed issues such as im/migration, education, and Latino/a youth. Yankee says he is not ready to endorse McCain yet hopefully because he will meet with Obama to hear him out on Latino/a issues.

This meeting is funny considering that McCain just put out a political attack ad against Obama accusing him of being a media whore. McCain is really trying to tap in to popular personalities to get his message out instead of actually just talking. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if DY is going to hop on the “Straight Talk Express.”

[Ed. Note – The above piece was published August 5th. The follow up, below, was published August 25th. – LDP]

Okay, so I’ve had some time to think about this whole Daddy Yankee endorsing John McCain fiasco and my take is McCain might have just shot himself in the foot and here is why…

McCain is obviously trying to appeal to the Latino/a vote by appearing with El Cangri and accepting his endorsement, but chances are DY’s endorsement will actually turn off some Latino/a voters, particularly the kind of Latino/a voter McCain wants to reach

Reggaeton is an extremely contested genre within the Latino/a community. More than any other musical genre, reggaeton truly highlights the the complexities of nationality, race, class, gender and generational division within the Latino/a community. Reggaeton is very often seen as something that is either strictly Puerto Rican, or more broadly Caribbean. Already there has been push back to having DY be the supposed voice of the Latino/a community because he is seen as representing Puerto Rican interests. Many people have also pointed out that DY can’t even vote for McCain so his endorsement is irrelevant (which is true but it’s bogus that people aren’t talking about the fact that that’s because Puerto Rico is a colony).

The reason why DY’s endorsement might really hurt McCain is because of people’s perceptions of El Cangri and reggaeton. Although claims over reggaeton’s ownership are now fought over, during the 1990′s reggaeton sparked a culture war in Puerto Rico over issues of race, sex, taste, and class. Reggaeton was seen as cafre, a term which is highly racialized and classed and denotes low culture. Reggaeton was seen as too Black and too American because of its close association to hip-hop, and therefore inauthentically Latino/a. It was seen as music that was devoid of culture and little more than a copycat of hip-hop when it first came out. It was also highly sexualized and suggestive with its visible trademarks being aggressive lyrics and perreo dancing. Not to mention, reggaeton was born out of the caserios (projects) and was initially funded by the drug game, which only added to the moral outcry against the genre. Reggaeton culture was immediately and vehemently denounced by the conservative and Christian segments of Puerto Rican society as crass and indecent. Although, it is extremely popular and much more sanitized today, reggaeton still maintains its association (real and imagined) to money, drugs, violence, and sex in the minds of many Latinos/as and Americans alike. It is that association that many Latinos/as, particularly those who tend to vote republican, are trying to distance themselves from. That is where McCain’s plan backfires.

Daddy Yankee does not represent a performance of Latinidad, that many conservative Latinos/as feel comfortable with. I think the unease around Daddy Yankee’s endorsement has to do with the fact that he actively and aggressively markets himself as de la calle and as a gangsta. Reggaeton and Daddy Yankee represent a version of Latinidad which is raced and classed that some Latinos/as want to distance themselves from. Rather than addressing the social realties that reggaeton speaks to and represents, it remains easier for certain segments of the Latino/a community to dismiss reggaeton and the culture around it as an aberration of Latinidad. It’s crazy because in a way this whole Daddy Yankee – McCain thing made me think about the way’s in which Latinos/as are climbing over each other for a piece of that Americano Dream. At whose cost are Latinos/as representing themselves as idealized American citizens?

Crazy as it may sound McCain is right Daddy Yankee is “an American success story” (ugh), but he may not represent “an American success story” that conservative Latino/a voters are ready to embrace. Guess McCain should have studied Leslie Sanchez’s cringe-inducing Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other a little closer because now he has a “Reggaeton Problem”.