Given most of the comments, I must conclude that the functional dynamic here is completely lost on the general public, from the fawning acolytes to the partisan predictions of intergalactic collapse. And it's not just a simple case of statist beer goggles, either. Even before taking a degree in "political science" all those years ago, and even as a blissfully ignorant statist back then, it just didn't seem that hard to figure out that the purpose of a candidacy like Bernie Sanders' has nothing to do with actually vying for the position. He's not there to compete for the throne himself; he's there to make the party-designated front-runner look less toxic in comparison. (Tough gig, I know.)
The party machines do this all the time. If they have identified their golden child this early in the game, the strategic goal is to encourage as many "fringe" candidates to join as possible, in order to make the party designate look like the
Anyway, so here we have the "self-described democratic socialist" Sanders, who is going to wind up doing nothing more than making Hillary look more palatable to the credulous. That is the point.
All of which reminds me of the "grapevine" scene from Johnny Dangerously. What starts as "Hey Bernie, wanna ingratiate yourself with the Party? Go be yourself and make people forget how bloody hideous a human being Hill is..." becomes "w00t! Bernie for President!"
Embedding is disabled, but here's the YouTube clip.
Sanders won't be the last such stage prop, and of course the Respublikans will go through their own breathless gyrations to validate their own predestined choice, until then the Grand Illusion of "Choose Your Master" will be finally set, giving people yet another opportunity for The People to choose The Establishment once more.