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Bernie Sanders needs to fall in line

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Bernie Sanders visited San Francisco on Tuesday.
Bernie Sanders visited San Francisco on Tuesday.(JOSH EDELSON)

Voters in six states are heading to the polls Tuesday to choose the Democratic nominee for president. No matter which candidate wins or loses, the outcome will be the same — Hillary Clinton will be her party's standard-bearer in November.

This has been true for a while: Before today's primaries, the AP and then several other news organization concluded that Clinton had passed the delegate threshold to win the nomination.

But this hasn't stopped Bernie Sanders from continuing his campaign for the White House. It certainly hasn't stopped him from telling his supporters that there is still a chance he can win the nomination — albeit by undermining the will of the Democratic primary voters and getting the superdelegates he once criticized to switch their votes for Clinton and support him.

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And it's even led some political pundits to maintain the fiction that if Sanders were to win in California, it could give him the momentum he needs heading into the Democratic convention in July. It won't.

The question now is what comes next. For Sanders, there is one good option — endorse Clinton and get on the train to defeat Donald Trump.

Of course Sanders could, as he argued Monday night after Clinton was declared the delegate victor, refuse to accept defeat and spend the next six weeks trying to convince Democratic superdelegates to switch their allegiance to him. There's of course no reason to believe this will happen — none have actually switched so far. There has been no groundswell of superdelegates who have changed their mind about Clinton. Considering her more than three million vote lead in the popular vote and her large margin of victory among pledged delegates, for Sanders to succeed would represent an affront to democracy.

For Sanders to continue on would take his campaign from its current state of self-parody to one that has the potential to do real damage to the Democratic Party and the effort against Trump. Over the past several weeks, Sanders has gotten far away from the issues that motivated him to run in the first place. Rather than talking about inequality, he's talking about process. And, he's lacerating Clinton with the kind of personal attacks that he once said he'd never lodge against her. It has undermined the positive halo that he had initially built up around his campaign.

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But now, with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Biden, and President Obama likely to endorse Clinton this week and with the Democratic Party largely united in the fight against Trump, any further continuation of the Sanders campaign risks undermining party unity. Worse, it will delay the all-important fight on the Democratic side to take back Congress. Over the past week, Trump and the GOP have been dealt haymaker after haymaker. Democrats have a unique opportunity to deliver the knockout blow and define Trump and the party he now leads in terms that could lead to an historic victory in November for Democrats. Doing so could make possible so many of the proposals and ideas that Sanders has trumpeted on the campaign trail. It's an extraordinary opportunity not just for the Democratic Party, but for progressivism in America.

Don't blow it, Bernie.