When Bernie Sanders quietly launched his presidential campaign in the spring of 2015, there was little fanfare and none of the dramatics that political junkies and journalists love.
The Vermont senator stood in front of a handful of reporters and didn't deliver drama -- he spoke about issues. He spoke about the squeezing of the American worker and America's crumbling infrastructure. Sounding indignant, he reminded the small media platoon that working people struggle to afford healthcare and college tuition for their kids. He railed against corporations that hide profits offshore to avoid paying their share of taxes.
And after reminding the journalists that he was the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Sanders said he doesn't believe "that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation that billionaires own the political process."
Billionares "who are literally able to buy elections and candidates," Sanders said.
Then he turned introspective.
"I seriously wonder," Sanders said, "I wonder now ... in this day and age, whether it is possible for any candidate who is not a billionaire or is not beholden to the billionaire class, to be able to run successful campaigns. And if that is the case, I want you all to recognize what a sad state of affairs this is for American democracy."
On July 12, we got the definitive answer.
Sanders fought tooth and nail for 14 months, waging an uphill battle against a candidate with the full backing of the aforementioned billionaires, a candidate who counts four Wall Street firms among her top five all-time donors.
He pleaded with the media to highlight issues instead of "making campaigns into soap operas." He asked his opponent, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, to release transcripts from her $225,000-a-pop speeches to Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs. When Clinton refused, he asked again and again, hammering her on the issue in vain and getting no help from reporters whose job is to dig for that sort of dirt.
Sanders tallied more than 12 million votes in the Democratic primaries, at one point racking up eight consecutive primary wins and putting Clinton the Inevitable on the defensive. He clashed with leaders of the Democratic National Committee, calling them out -- especially chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- for abandoning neutrality in favor of blatantly helping Clinton win the nomination. As Clinton closed in on a mathematical lead, Sanders fought on, determined to go down with the ship if that meant he could steer his party's platform to the left.
And when it was all said and done, he kissed the ring. Standing in a gym in New Hampshire, a state that handed him his first odds-defying win of the primaries, Sanders praised the candidate he'd bitterly criticized for more than a year.
"I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president," Sanders said at a joint rally here. "Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination and I congratulate her for that."
Doing Clinton's bidding, Sanders made all the right noises about Democratic unity, and stressed that it's important for his supporters to switch allegiances to Clinton so Republican Donald Trump doesn't win the White House.
And yet, many of those same supporters came to that New Hampshire gym with signs and t-shirts that read "Only Bernie" and "Bernie Or Bust."
"I want to vote for someone who has integrity, someone who has been consistent for 40 years," Sanders supporter Marie Clark told CNN. "I will always support a political revolution."
Patti Covino was one of those Sanders supporters toting an "Only Bernie" sign, and told CNN she'd driven from Vermont.
"I would follow Bernie to the ends of the earth, but I will never follow him to Hillary," Covino said. "I'm not voting for Trump, I will write Bernie in. It doesn't matter what he says."
On Twitter, Trump himself echoed the sentiment of those Sanders supporters.
"I am somewhat surprised that Bernie Sanders was not true to himself and his supporters," the exclamation-point-loving candidate wrote on Twitter. "They are not happy that he is selling out!"
In a story on Vox.com, writer Jeff Stein wonders whether Sanders' campaign will be judged as a real movement, or an unusually successful -- but ultimately failed -- "typical left-wing insurgent," a more successful version of Howard Dean or Bill Bradley.
He quotes political experts on both sides, including those who say Sanders has left an enduring mark on the party, and those who think things will return to the status quo now that Clinton is turning toward the general election.
While trying to guess the future is a difficult thing, there's one undeniable truth about Sanders' endorsement -- he shelved his own convictions and disappointed his most passionate supporters by granting Clinton his full support. He also answered that question he asked himself 14 months prior, before all the polls, rallies and debates -- no, Bernie, it isn't possible to win a presidential campaign without the backing of billionaires.
If the "movement" -- the "revolution" -- survives, it will be without Bernie Sanders.