Why Bernie's Strong Poll Numbers Against Trump Are For Real

VENTURA, CA - MAY 26: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks at a campaign rally at VenturaÊCo
VENTURA, CA - MAY 26: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks at a campaign rally at VenturaÊCollege on May 26, 2016 in Ventura, California. The California primary is June 7. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Poll after poll shows Bernie doing better, much better, against Trump than Hillary.

May 26 California
Clinton 49, Trump 39: Clinton +10
Sanders 53, Trump 36: Sanders +17

May 25 North Carolina
Clinton 43, Trump 47 Trump +4
Sanders 48, Trump 44 Sanders +4

May 25 New Jersey
Clinton 48, Trump 37: Clinton +11
Sanders 57, Trump 33: Sanders +24

May 22 General Election
Trump 43, Clinton 46: Clinton +3
Sanders 54, Trump 39: Sanders +15

May 17 Arizona
Clinton 41, Trump 45: Trump +4
Sanders 45, Trump 44: Sanders +1

May 15 Georgia
Trump 45, Clinton 41: Trump +4
Trump 42, Sanders 47: Sanders +5

Are these numbers meaningful?
The most common response is that Bernie as yet has not been tested by the Republican's slime machine. If he becomes the nominee they would red-bait him to death. After all, in the person of Ted Cruz, they already have a Joe McCarthy look-alike more than willing to play the part.

We are told red-baiting will work because there is so much to attack -- Bernie's kind words for Cuba, his so-called honeymoon to the Soviet Union, and, of course, all his socialistic big government programs that he wants to foist on freedom-loving Americans.

This meme is repeated so often (especially by Hillary surrogates) that it has taken on the status of conventional wisdom. It must be true or why would everyone be saying it?

But, where is the evidence to show that Sanders has been hurt or would be hurt by a bombardment of red-baiting and other kinds of negative attacks?

The People's Republic of Vermont
Vermont is part of the evidentiary base. It is so liberal, we are told, that Bernie's many campaign victories are irrelevant for how he would fare across the country.

But Vermont cast its electoral votes for Republicans from 1980 to 1988, and during that time Sanders was repeatedly elected mayor of Burlington, its largest city. By 1990 he was Vermont's lone congressman and in 2006 he won the Senate race. In 2012, he even bested Obama's 66 percent landslide by garnering 71 percent of the vote.

The 2006 Senate race is revealing. Republican businessman Richard Tarrant spent $7 million of his own money to blast Bernie on everything from being soft on Osama Bin Laden to supporting child molesters. It didn't work. Bernie won 65 percent of the vote.

Did his Republican opponents simply forget the art of red-baiting during all those years when the state voted Republican in national elections? Why was the millionaire Tarrant unsuccessful in pinning the commie label on him? What does it mean when an overt socialist wins 65 percent and 71 percent of the vote?

At the very least it means that in Vermont red-baiting did not work, and does not work.

What about in the neighboring Granite State?
OK, maybe you can claim that Vermont really was extremely liberal even while casting its votes for Reagan and Bush 1. But you can't say that about New Hampshire and its electoral support for Ford, Reagan, Bush and Bush. It's no left-wing haven.

New Hampshire also shares many media markets with Vermont so its voters know all about Bernie and his democratic socialism. It should be a good barometer of how deeply red-baiting has influenced a more conservative state.

It hasn't. New Hampshire voters greatly prefer Sanders over Trump, and Sanders runs far ahead of Clinton's marginal two point lead. How do Hillary supporters write-off these results?

Wednesday, May 18 New Hampshire
Clinton 44, Trump 42: Clinton +2
Sanders 54, Trump 38: Sanders +16

Who you going to believe, the polls or your lying eyes?
Hillary supporters frequently downplay these polls. This is especially true for older voters who have witnessed the destructive power of red-baiting. In fact, during this their entire adult lives, the political spectrum has shifted to the right, and any national candidate, like George McGovern, who tried to buck that trend was roundly defeated.

This age cohort also watched Bill Clinton triangulate to regain the presidency for the Democrats. He moved to the center by declaring that the "era of big government is over" and by "cutting welfare as we know it." Obama also never strayed far from this neo-liberal elite political consensus. He even bought into the austerity myth and cut government jobs during the aftermath of the Great Recession.

So we boomers seem immune to data that challenges our deeply held beliefs (near religious in intensity) that a socialist just can't win. "This is America -- the capitalist center of the universe. Of course a socialist will get trumped. The polls must be wrong. Red-baiting will work. Why? Because it always has."

Unfortunately Hillary supporters have no current evidence -- none at all -- for this claim.

Don't Trust Anyone over Thirty
Bernie is doing remarkably well with independents and young people. Recent polling suggests that socialism is not a bad word among these voters. Those under thrity years of age favor socialism over capitalism by 43 to 32 margin according to a January poll by yougov.com

Overall Americans today seem much less uptight about socialism than a generation ago:

"Only 18% of Americans say it is specifically the "democratic socialist" label that would make them less likely to vote for the Vermont senator. The number is lower among Democrats and Independents (15%) than Republicans (25%). 23% of Democrats even say the phrase makes them more likely to back Sanders. But most Americans say the label makes no difference - 39% wouldn't support Sanders anyway, and 13% would support him regardless."

The Honeymooners
Sure, sure, young folks love him, but the media has yet to focus on the many ways Sanders remains an unrepentant 1960s Marxist. When they do, his poll numbers will plummet. As one columnist recently put it,

"The news media, too, has been languid about highlighting the weird aspects of his background (like a post-wedding celebration in the Soviet Union) since no one has ever expected that President Sanders would be choosing a Cabinet."

Lindsey Graham was more direct when he declared to the roar of the Republican crowd that "The number two guy [running for the Democratic nomination] went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon, and I don't think he ever came back,"

Wow! How do explain why those two lovebirds were frolicking away in the Soviet Union in 1988 just before the collapse of the communist evil empire? What the hell was Bernie thinking?

Well, it was a funny kind of honeymoon because 10 other people went along. It turns out the two Sanders lovebirds weren't there for connubial bliss. They were there because of a sister city program set up by that great communist sympathizer, Dwight D. Eisenhower. As In These Times reports:

"In 1956, President Eisenhower launched the program that a decade later would be called Sister Cities International, a program still in existence today. The idea was to promote peace and understanding through connections between cities in the United States and, at first, Western Europe. The program soon spread. In 1973, Seattle became a sister city of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, then under Soviet rule. Other U.S.-Soviet sister cities soon followed despite the tensions of the Cold War. In 1988, Burlington sistered with Yaroslavl, a city 160 miles north of Moscow."

The Slime Machine Already at Work
The last part of the argument against Sanders' electability is that the Republicans have not as yet done him damage. But that's not from want of trying. The Soviet honeymoon myth has gotten quite a bit of play by George Will, CNN's Anderson Cooper, the New York Post, and the National Review .

What has been the impact? Bernie's poll numbers are rising.

So what?
In response to these points, Hillary supporters often throw up their hands and say, it's too late! It's mathematically impossible for Bernie to win. Hillary has secured the delegates fair and square. She has received 3 million more votes (not counting any of the caucuses.) Bernie should quit and get behind her now before he damages her even more.

Here's what!
For the good of the nation, Hillary supporters need to break free from their own red-baiting fears. Instead they should fear the Clinton-Trump match-up. It's time to stop debunking the polls and start thinking hard about how best to defeat Trump.

Hillary's e-mails, the Clinton Foundation, her Wall Street speeches will do much more damage to her than the alleged red scare will do to Bernie.

But, if you still believe Hillary is the stronger candidate against Trump, then try to make the case without resorting to unsubstantiated fears of red-baiting. If you can peel away your preconceptions, it should become clear that that Hillary is in deep trouble, and that Bernie is the stronger candidate.

It's not too late to switch to Sanders before Clinton leads us to President Trump.

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute in New York is working with unions, worker centers and community organization to build a national economics educational campaign. His latest book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice (Oct 2015), is a text for that effort. All proceeds go to support this educational campaign.

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