True, Polls Have Bernie Beating Trump. But The Republicans Haven't Even Started on Him Yet | Opinion

Bernie Sanders arrives at Super Tuesday with momentum built through New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada. Five polls have him beating Donald Trump. But here's what will actually happen if Sanders is the nominee.

Trump will drown out any substantive discussion or defense of Sander's policies by stoking voter paranoia about socialism and communism. He'll warn America that a Sanders presidency would destroy the economy. He will invoke his mantra that Medicare for all would "force patients to face massive wait times for treatments and destroy access to quality care." That's false, of course, but facts don't matter to a President who has told more than 16,000 lies.

Trump doesn't even have to lie or invent "facts" to smear Sanders. There are plenty of actual facts he can use. In 1971, Sanders joined the Liberty Union Party of Vermont, which describes itself as a nonviolent socialist party, and became its chairman in 1974.

At the time, Sanders advocated a marginal tax rate of 100 percent on income over a million dollars, saying "Nobody should earn more than a million dollars." Trump will exclaim, "So America, no matter how hard you work and how successful you are, Bernie wants the government to take everything you make over a million dollars!"

In 1976 Sanders called for nationalization of American industries, arguing the government or the people should own energy and pharmaceutical companies and banks. Trump will bellow that government ownership of industry is communism and people's ownership is socialism, and he'll be hard to refute.

Trump will conflate past and present, reminding voters that the Democratic Socialists of America recently endorsed Sanders for president and that he still calls himself a Democratic Socialist; ipso facto, Sander's views haven't changed. It won't matter that his socialist affiliations and opinions date back more than 40 years, that he quit the Liberty Union Party in 1977, or that he's modified his views since, just as it didn't matter that Barack Obama wasn't born in Kenya. As late as December 2017, 57 percent of those who voted for Trump still believed it was true.

Trump is a master at smearing opponents, and his smear tactics have worked. His attacks on the media, calling it fake news, dishonest, hateful and the "Enemy of the People," lowered America's trust in the news. It hit a low of 32 percent in September 2016, during the heat of Trump's campaign. By April 2018, 51 percent of Republicans viewed the news media as the enemy instead of an important part of democracy.

Trump's incessant branding of the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt" cut America's trust in Mueller in half, and not just among Republicans. By March 2019, 54 percent independents also agreed Mueller was on a witch hunt.

His labeling of Mexicans as criminals, though baseless and false, got traction. By 2017, nearly half of Americans agreed with Trump that Mexican immigrants make crime worse. That year, Trump's xenophobic rhetoric and anti-Muslim policies incited a spike in Islamophobia. In California, vandalization of mosques, physical assaults on and discriminatory treatment by federal employees increased 82 percent.

Trump's smears have often turned vicious. When Ben Carson was leading in the Iowa polls, Trump tweeted, "Too much Monsanto in the corn creates issues in the brain," and likened Carson to a child molester. Carson faded, Trump won.

Trump's endless list of demeaning nicknames is childish, yet they somehow seem to stick: "Howdy Doody" and "Alfred E. Newman" for Pete Buttigieg; "High Tax, High Crime" Nancy Pelosi;" "Crooked Hillary," "Pocahontas" for Elizabeth Warren; "low energy" Jeb Bush; Marco Rubio the "clown," "very slow sleepy" Joe Biden; Lyin', cheatin', liddle' Adam "Shifty" Schiff;, "Fake Tears Chuck Schumer;" "Dumbest Man on Television" for Don Lemon, "That bitch" Katy Tur; and "Psycho Joe" Scarborough.

Trump won't relent. His elevated approval rating will embolden him to double down. He'll give Sanders no quarter, and Sanders will prove more vulnerable to Trump's tactics than most, because Americans reject socialism. They prefer capitalism by a two-to-one margin (57 percent to 28 percent). Republicans favor capitalism over socialism ten to one (76 percent to 7 percent). For independents it's close to three to one (59 percent to 23 percent). Those ratios could be a glimpse of the results of a Sanders-Trump match-up.

65 percent of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents agree that the most important thing is to pick a nominee who can beat Trump, and that policy matters less. Sanders is passionate about policy, but can't win. He may be driven by ego, or may truly believe he can lead a revolution to change America for the better. Either way, primary voters must reject him. If he captures the nomination, Trump will win and America will lose.

Neil Baron is an attorney who has represented many institutions involved in the international markets and advised various parts of the federal government on economic issues.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.