Last weekend, a presidential candidate swept three states, posting eye-popping totals ranging from 70 percent to 82 percent of the vote. The news media reaction was a collective yawn.

If the victories had gone to the front-runner, the indifference would have been understandable, but it was Bernie Sanders who won, and Hillary Clinton who took a drubbing. Sanders collected 104 delegates to Clinton’s 38, cutting her still-considerable lead by one quarter.

By most estimates, Sanders is still a long shot, based on the media’s assumption that remaining states will vote exactly the way those voting previously did. After all, since primaries became critical in 1972, no Democratic race has gone beyond March — but 11 of the 26 states Barack Obama carried in 2012 haven’t voted yet.

One would think reporters might be a tad curious about how the “socialist” from tiny Vermont could be doing so well against the most powerful Democratic family since the Kennedys.

There may be darker motives. The discomfiture, bordering on panic, of the Republican establishment following the rise of Donald Trump is displayed daily. Major news sites carry four Trump stories for every one about Democrats, and those featuring Sanders invariably stress his long odds.

Yet the Democratic establishment may resist change just as fiercely, and be just as reluctant to face reality. One curious case is Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel economics laureate from Princeton whose New York Times column made him a progressive hero as he eviscerated Republican opposition to Obamacare, and exposed House Speaker Paul Ryan, then Budget Committee chairman, practicing voodoo economics.

Krugman’s blog is called “The Conscience of a Liberal,” but he was utterly unprepared for Bernie Sanders. Just before voting began, he discussed a Trump presidency paired with a Republican Congress, then said, “Or maybe you believe — based on no evidence I’m aware of — that a populist rising from the left is ready to happen any day now.”

Packed stadium rallies, record turnouts at caucuses like Maine’s, and Sanders’ small donors outperforming Clinton’s $353,000-a-plate dinners apparently changed nothing.

Krugman ridiculed Sanders’ universal health care plan — an idea whose efficiency he’s praised many times — and bashed an economics paper, written by a Clinton supporter, concluding Sanders’ health care, education and tax plans would significantly boost economic growth. Tellingly, the Princeton economist didn’t fault the paper’s methodology, only its “impossible” result.

Since then, Krugman has retreated to skewering Republicans. After Sanders’ weekend blowout, he referred to the Democratic nominee as “she,” adding, “Yes, it’s still overwhelmingly likely to be Hillary Clinton.”

It’s no different with Maine’s Democratic Party. The March 6 caucus featured 46,000 voters, two-and-a-half times the Republican turnout, with lines so long we may switch to a primary. Sanders won 65 percent, and 16 of 25 pledged delegates. Yet four of five Maine “superdelegates” are still for Clinton.

I caught up with the lone exception, Troy Jackson, former and possibly future state senator, who was knocking on doors for the special election in Biddeford. Jackson is a Democratic National Committee member, selected after his 2014 congressional bid, but he doesn’t find much democratic about the DNC.

“They don’t even respond to my emails,” Jackson said of DNC staff, headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who notoriously minimized Democratic debates and relegated them to obscure time slots, resisting even a pre-New Hampshire debate.

Jackson, who works for Sanders’ campaign, told his fellow superdelegates before the caucus he’d support whoever won. Despite the results, no one switched. “I wonder what they’re telling all the people who voted in the caucus,” he said.

In this respect, the Republican Party is more democratic. Republicans reserve three spots in each state for party officials — but requires support for the state’s winner.

Superdelegates were added after the “runaway” 1972 Democratic convention that nominated George McGovern. They’ve never had much effect before, but that could change this year — and prompt reconsideration of the notion Democratic voters can’t be trusted.

Nothing is stopping reporters, however, from putting aside Trump’s tragicomic opera, and from pronouncing the Democratic race over, to do some actual reporting. Most voters make decisions based not solely on personalities, but on issues. The massive inequality that marks today’s America is driving this campaign.

Sanders thinks the rich, and corporations, should pay more of the tab, including health care. Trump preaches huge tax cuts, which would bankrupt government. What does Clinton think? The one-time tribune for universal health care now is so entrenched she’ll only pledge to “defend,” and, perhaps “improve” Obamacare by some unspecified means.

There’s plenty of work to do, if those we rely on for news will take it on.

Douglas Rooks has covered the State House for 31 years. Comment is welcomed at: [email protected]


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