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Whether that vulnerability translates into votes for Greenfield or Tasini is another matter. And not even disgruntled liberals believe the opponents will end up unseating Clinton. The anti-war underdogs don't have the senator's mighther $14 million, and counting, war chest; her worldwide name recognition; her popularity in the state. And neither holds any illusion that the New York State Democratic Committee will give him its blessing. They expect to get their names on the ballot through electoral fiat, gathering 15,000 signatures from New York Democrats from 15 districts statewide by July.
Yet even a long shot can play an important role in advancing the progressive movement, says Charles Lenchner of White Plains, who helped found the Progressive Democrats of America. As he sees it, any anti-war challenger to Clinton who can get himself on the September primary ballot and get people to vote for him wins. That would mean he had mobilized hundreds of thousands of people across the state, leaving behind a more robust network.
"We want to engender a feet-in-the-streets campaign to build up the Democratic Party," Lenchner says.
Even the candidates see their efforts as a test for progressives. Now they will have a choice, someone who better reflects their views. Says Greenfield, "If this is what you believe and if this is what you say is important to you, don't elect Hillary Clinton."
Tasini puts it a different way: "The challenge is to get past the haze and celebrity and ask voters what they believe in. If given a choice, do they choose Republican lite?"
No one is bracing for that test more than Stricklin, of the Village Democrats. On the one hand, there are what he terms his "personal loyalties" to Clinton. On the other, his ideals. A challenge to Clinton from the left, he says, "means there will be a struggle for our club with the endorsement." He adds, "It will be a dogfight like we've never seen and I dread it like a beating."