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Zeldin’s Long Game

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 18:19


What exactly is the far right trying to “save” New York from? That is one of the first things we wondered about when we received a notice recently from the noted seditionist Lee Zeldin’s campaign for governor.

Mr. Zeldin, you might recall, was one of the handful of congressional representatives to speak on the House floor on Jan. 6, 2020, calling for President Biden’s legitimate and fair election victory to be overturned. Winking at the chaos of that day, he carried on in his support for the attempted coup even after the violent Trump supporters were cleared from the building and while members of the Capitol Police were being treated for injuries they sustained while trying to protect Mr. Zeldin’s colleagues from what could have been a fatal attack.

Unchastened, his campaign’s core message is that he is “gearing up for a last stand” and “losing is not an option.” These echo calls made in the leadup to the Jan. 6 insurrection and, no dummy, he knows it.

Mr. Zeldin is nothing if not persistent. A fresh-faced nobody, he lost his first bid to unseat the Democratic Representative Tim Bishop in 2008, but went on to win two terms in the New York State Senate. He sniveled his way to victory in 2014 over Mr. Bishop, winning on a fabricated non-scandal involving a private fireworks display for which Mr. Bishop had helped secure a permit. Mr. Zeldin went on to three more terms in the House before announcing that he would not seek a fourth term and instead run for governor.

Mr. Zeldin’s political trajectory from first-time candidate to fascism apologist has seemed both unlikely and highly alarming. Though he has been unable to generate the kind of national media attention as have the dim-bulb stars of the Republican right, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Jim Jordan, he represents the same creeping threat to democracy.

Can New Yorkers expect a Trump-style Big Lie when Mr. Zeldin loses his bid to be governor? And with odds so low for his defeating pretty much any Democrat for statewide office in this blue state, could his long game be a run for Senate? A show on Fox News? The White House? As we in Long Island’s First Congressional District have learned, he can never be counted entirely out.

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