Of all the things said about Bernie Sanders, few people would disagree that the Vermont senator inspires unusual passion in his loyalists.
Most people like the 74-year-old Democratic presidential candidate, and even people who say they won't vote for him still admire his honesty and commitment to fighting corruption in politics.
But among his real supporters, among the people who show up to his rallies, Sanders is like a rock star. Or as rockstar-esque as anyone can be at his age, if you don't count the 72-year-old Mick Jagger.
That's why it's easy to understand their disappointment at what appears to be an inevitable win for Sanders' rival, Hillary Clinton. A few weeks ago, coming off a streak of seven wins in eight states, the Sanders campaign looked like it had some life in it.
But New York -- former Sen. Clinton's adopted home state, and Sanders' actual home state -- was on the horizon, along with a slate of northeastern states that were all favorable to the former Secretary of State.
Clinton cleaned up in those contests, and now the Sanders campaign looks like it's on life support. Enthusiasm has turned into dismay, and bitterness that the Democratic contest seemed rigged from the beginning. While Sanders was racking up delegates in the Pacific northwest and nabbing heartland states from Clinton, his supporters seemed to forget about the enormous gulf in superdelegates that padded Clinton's lead.
But with a resurgent Clinton campaign riding high off East Coast victories, Sanders supporters are pointing to Clinton's 480-superdelegate lead as proof, once again, that their candidate would never have been permitted to win the Democratic nomination.
They're probably right. The superdelegate system, like the Republicans' archaic state-by-state delegate system, exists as a check on the voting public. It exists as a legal mechanism by which the party elites can veto the will of the voters. No one's put up much of a protest about the system before now because the Democrats haven't been this bitterly divided in recent memory. In other words, the decision-makers never had to use their veto.
And technically, they haven't used it this year either. That's why calls for Sanders to run as a third-party candidate are at best unrealistic, and at worst ruinous for Democrats who don't want a Republican in the White House.
What Sanders voters aren't admitting is that Clinton has a sizable delegate lead even without the superdelegates. Clinton also enjoys a solid, indisputable lead in the popular vote -- as of April 28, 12,135,109 voters have cast ballots for the former First Lady, while 8,967,401 voters have backed Sanders, according to a running count by Real Clear Politics.
So for all the talk about the Democratic party being unfair to Sanders -- and the goading of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who's pushing the "Democrats have been unfair to Sanders" narrative because it's in his interest to split the rival party -- the truth is that Clinton has all but defeated Sanders, fair and square.
Then there's Sanders himself, and his record on the possibility of a third-party run.
“I would not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican president,” Sanders said in July of 2015, per The Hill.
More recently, his wife, Jane Sanders, echoed her husband's sentiments on an independent run.
"We've been very clear right from the beginning that we will not play the role of spoiler," Sanders told CNN. "The reason that he was active and he decided to run in the Democratic Party was just that: We cannot afford a Republican in the White House. We cannot afford a Republican appointing Supreme Court justices. So Bernie will not be running as an independent."
Writing in The Hill, Tim Farley entertains the fantasy that an independent Sanders could peel votes away from Trump.
"He could take votes from Trump as well as Clinton," Farley wrote. "Ross Perot earned nearly 20 million votes in 1992. He did not garner a single electoral vote, but one can see a few are possible for Sanders."
Note the acknowledgement of reality in that quote -- Perot, who is used as an example by Farley, didn't pick up any electoral votes when he ran in 1992. But he did play spoiler for incumbent President George H.W. Bush, helping then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton win the presidential election.
A Sanders independent run would have the same impact, except in 2016 it would harm a Clinton rather than help one. Even Sanders' most ardent supporters admit the Vermont senator won't win the presidency if he decides to split from the Democrats and run independently.
If Sanders loyalists would be satisfied with making a statement and derailing Clinton's campaign to make a point, then a Sanders independent run makes sense. But if they're hoping to keep Donald Trump out of the White House, then nothing would help the brash former reality TV star more than dividing the Democrats and playing spoiler to Clinton.