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Politico’s Sanders postmortem is a symptom of the perverse incentives political operatives face.

David McNew/Getty Images

In a just world, the Bernie Sanders staffers who turned what was supposed to be a protest candidacy into perhaps the most underestimated campaign in modern history would be able to write their own tickets in Democratic politics.

In the world we actually inhabit, where political operatives are more often judged by their loyalties and networks than by the number of feathers in their caps, Sanders supporters apparently feel they have to leak stories to the press that make the remarkable campaign they ran look petty and dysfunctional lest they be linked to whatever intra-party discord stems from the primary.

Top Sanders aides admit that it’s been weeks, if not months, since they themselves realized he wasn’t going to win, and they’ve been operating with a Trump’s-got-no-real-shot safety net. They debate whether Sanders’ role in the fall should be a full vote-for-Clinton campaign, or whether he should just campaign hard against Trump without signing up to do much for her directly.

They haven’t been able to get Sanders focused on any of that.

Read the whole remarkable story, but keep in mind that until it landed at Politico, there was near universal agreement among political junkies that, at a nuts and bolts level, on a pound for pound basis, Sanders ran the best campaign of the primary cycle.

Reputations in the political world often bear no connection to observable, quantifiable accomplishments. If that weren’t the case, Sanders aides would’ve probably held their fire, confident that they’d be rewarded professionally for proving they could punch high above their weight.