Even as Hillary Clinton's clinching of the Democratic presidential nomination heralded a historic opening of the nation's highest office to half the population, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump was sounding a dramatic retreat from our halting, hard-won progress toward truly representative government.
Having declared that a Mexican American U.S. district judge could not fairly consider complaints against Trump's nominal university because of his ethnicity, the candidate added that a Muslim jurist probably couldn't be trusted either. A man at the doorstep of the presidency had thereby all but proposed a religious test for federal office - an idea so antique and repugnant that the Founding Fathers expressly forbade it in Article VI of the Constitution.
The need for a robust response to such rubbish is as good a reason as any for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to end his insurgency and strive to unite his recently adopted party behind Clinton.
Of course, there is also the fact that he, you know, lost. After convincing victories in New Jersey and California Tuesday, Clinton led Sanders by 3.7 million votes, with nearly 57 percent of the total cast, and 375 pledged delegates, with nearly 55 percent of the total awarded, according to RealClearPolitics. She has won 33 of 56 primaries and caucuses, and seven of the last 10. In the three most recent national polls of Democratic voters, Clinton's advantage over Sanders is about 14 percentage points.
Following a remarkable journey from socialist asterisk to serious competition, Sanders and his legion of supporters have earned plenty of recognition short of the nomination. The senator has ably embodied widespread alienation and frustration - and usually channeled it more productively than Trump. The inequities that Sanders thunders against are real. So is the casual corruption within the party establishment, which has weakened support for Clinton and yielded a dreary drumbeat of revelations in the Democratic-run city where she is to be nominated next month.
From hidden official emails to overcompensated corporate speeches, Clinton's flaws are significant. But they are not nearly as significant as the fundamental values of racial equality and religious freedom that Trump is calling into question.
Sanders stands at the peak of his power to contribute to Clinton's candidacy and thereby influence the campaign, the convention, and perhaps the cabinet. Nor does he have to look far for a precedent: Eight years ago, Clinton herself delivered most of her supporters, many of them fervent and some of them bitterly so, to Barack Obama, and she emerged as secretary of state.
It certainly won't be the revolution Sanders and his supporters hoped to bring to Philadelphia. But it could help secure the blessings of the last one.