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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Party wars and the enemies within

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), right, is hoping to

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), right, is hoping to unseat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is facing open rebellion from fellow Democrats. Credit: N. Scott Trimble/Syracuse Post-Standard via AP; Newsday/John Paraskevas

The most riveting political dramas of the season play out mainly within the major parties. For Republicans, the internal turmoil comes from Washingon D.C. For Democrats, New York becomes an intramural war zone.

Consider the case of Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin. He's looking to migrate from the fierce GOP ecosystem inside Congress to what are now quieter Republican waters back home.

The House GOP caucus has been somewhat divided over whether to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as conference chair for her anti-Donald Trump posture. As a Trump loyalist, Zeldin has been going with the anti-Cheney clamor.

But in New York, his bid for governor proceeds without party strife. GOP county chairs from up north and out west quickly fell in behind Nassau and Suffolk in the weeks after he announced his bid for governor.

This is a full year-and-a-half ahead of the blue-state election, and any Republican is rated as a long shot to win. As these things go, it all sounds fairly kumbaya, even with ex-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's son, Andrew Giuliani, consulting with his mentor, Trump, about a run of his own.

Not all party agitation concerns candidacies and positions. And labeling "wings" of a party as "moderate" or "radical" or "extremist" or "establishment" doesn’t quite describe these internal fights. Sometimes the battles are just plain personal and financial.

This week, allies of Rudy Giuliani said he's been cheated of compensation for his failed efforts to nullify President Joe Biden's election in court. Former city police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who got a Trump criminal pardon, tweeted: "I want to know what the GOP did with the quarter of $1 billion they collected for the election legal fight. Lawyers and law firms that didn’t do (expletive) were paid lots of money and the people that worked their (expletive) off, got nothing."

The very same moment finds New York Democrats, with a grip on all the top elected posts, in tumult.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo faces open rebellion from other elected officials of the party organization he has directed for a decade. Democratic lawmakers are scrutinizing his performance and conduct, and like a number of their state counterparts, members of the mostly Democratic congressional delegation have declared they want him gone from the top of the ticket.

Some of the Democrats' fault lines are regional. The interests of state legislators from the suburbs, city and upstate counties diverge. Long Island state senators now in the majority have reason to worry that a $2.1 billion state COVID-19 rescue program covering people who are not in the U.S. legally could deal them an electoral backlash.

The many years of nasty alienation between Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio serve as an especially glaring example of the split that typically occurs when a mayor and governor of the same party hold power at the same time. The long feud has spilled over to governance, leaving the public with conflicting signals about pandemic policy.

We’ve come through a super-polarized national election in which voters proved averse to crossing their accustomed party lines. Looking ahead, party activists and functionaries on opposite sides of the red-blue divide have turned their sights this season on those they deem the enemy within.

Dan Janison is a member of Newsday's editorial board.

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