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the big lie

A Case in Point: There’s No Dislodging the Big Lie

Jared Schmeck is a 35-year-old father of four, a former police officer now working at the electrical company run by his father, and living with his wife Amanda and the kids — sons Grant and Hunter, and daughters Penelope and Piper — in Central Point, Oregon. On Christmas Eve they traditionally call the the North American Aerospace Defense Command which simulates tracking Santa Claus as he delivers presents around the world, with the President and First Lady patched in to
The President and First Lady
take phone calls and asking kids what they hope to get for Christmas. It's an annual tradition of NORAD since 1955. But this year when Jared called in he found himself talking to the Bidens. "I thought, ‘wow, this is real'”, he told Portland's The Oregonian.

The amicable call, full of good wishes for Christmas, ended with:

Joe Biden: By the way, you guys have to be in bed by nine o'clock, you know, and asleep between nine and twelve or he doesn't show up.

Jill Biden: This isn't to you, Jared. This is to the kids (Jared laughs in the background)

Joe Biden: I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

Jared: Yeah, I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas as well and Let's Go Brandon.

Seemingly clueless, the president answered, "Let's Go Brandon, I agree". Clueless, because "Let's Go Brandon" is a stand-in for "F**k Joe Biden". NASCAR fans had chanted this at a Talladega race; trying to cover up on network television, the announcer said he thought he was hearing "Let's Go Brandon" for the driver, Brandon Brown, who had just won his first race.

Mr. Schmeck's slur was stunning incivility, the more so at Christmas coming from one who would later say, "I am a Christian man". It went viral (Schmeck didn't know it was being live streamed by the White House) and he was roundly chastised in the media, but our purpose here is to get at something else.

But first, Schmeck said about the president, "I mean no disrespect to him" and told The Oregonian ,

"He seems likes he’s a cordial guy. There’s no animosity or anything like that. It was merely just an innocent jest to also express my God-given right to express my frustrations in a joking manner…I love him just like I love any other brother or sister.”

Schmeck comes across as forthright and clear spoken, is tech savvy (he and wife immediately put up a video on YouTube and posted to Instagram) and did not backtrack from what he had said, telling the newspaper, “At the end of the day, I have nothing against Mr. Biden, but I am frustrated because I think he can be doing a better job". He called himself, a “free-thinking American and follower of Jesus Christ” and later complained of “being attacked for utilizing my freedom of speech”.


Steve Bannon and Jared Schmeck
But then Steve Bannon got hold of him for an interview on his podcast, "War Room", where Schmeck went "full MAGA".

Schmeck told Bannon, “It was said in a joking manner, in a humorous manner, but it’s a very serious thing.” He said it was a way for him to “voice my disapproval of this man and his administration”. He added,

“I am a Christian man, for me it’s God first and foremost, I don’t follow any one man blindly. Some of the media has run with that and said I don’t support Donald Trump, that’s absolutely false. Donald Trump is my president and he should still be president right now.”

He listed standard conservative complaints against Democrats as applied to Biden and said,

"The election was 100% stolen. So I just want to make that clear."

It was this statement — made with such certitude, almost instructing us to fix our mistaken thinking — that is our focus, a pronouncement that leaves one wondering how people come to believe, and with such fervor, the counterfactual.

rigged as predicted

The claim of a stolen election came entirely from Donald Trump. He had for months beforehand laid groundwork of disbelief in the election should he lose, saying it would be rigged, that only by cheating could the Democrats win, that mail-in ballots would be rife with fraud, that "millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries".

Trump had begun insisting as far back as July of 2020 that we “must know Election results on the night of the Election" when he would be in the lead from Republicans who defied the virus by voting in-person. But in the early hours of the next day Biden took the lead from the slow counting of mailed ballots, their use preferred in the pandemic by risk-averse Democrats. Trump asked his followers, "Did I predict this?" Didn't mailed ballots confirm massive fraud just as his followers had been primed to believe?

Trump supporters immediately fell in behind him. His tweet to "STOP THE COUNT" of those post-Election Day ballots became his disciples brandishing "Stop the Steal" placards. The Trump campaign filed suits in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona asking the courts to stop the counting.

He tweeted it was the "MOST CORRUPT ELECTION IN U.S. HISTORY". He needed no evidence. His people believed whatever he said. He had long worked to undermine anything different that his people heard calling it "fake news". One year on, about two thirds of Republicans still consistently poll as thinking the 2020 election was stolen.

"As soon as that election is over", he had said to reporters, "we're going in with our lawyers". In courts of battleground states, his lawyers lost 64 of 65 cases. Lawsuits bearing any serious assertions were uniformly turned away because the lawyers brought no evidence, just claims. What little they had, such as affidavits about supposedly suspicious activity, would come nowhere near overturning a state's election results even if proven true.

In fact, a federal judge in Michigan ordered sanctions to be levied against nine pro-Trump lawyers, ruling that their lawsuit challenging the election's result based only on conspiracy theories was “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

make believe

A frenzy set in to try to explain and validate fraud. Voting machines had used software developed in Venezuela that had been jiggered to keep Cesar Chavez in power; the leadership of Dominion Voting Services, which produced the vote-tabulating machines, had ties to George Soros and the left-wing movement antifa; the U.S. military had seized computer servers in Germany used to flip American votes. Nine days after the election, President Trump tweeted that Dominion's machines had "deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide".

"This is real! It is not made up", exclaimed Rudy Giuliani. "There's nobody here that engages in fantasies…You should be more astounded by the fact that our votes are counted in Germany and in Spain by a company owned by affiliates of Chavez and Maduro".

"I’m not that simple minded", Jared Schmeck had said. Did he and others like him believe even this lunacy, and if he didn't, why did the Trump team having to resort to the outlandish to make their case for fraud not sow doubt in the claims of a stolen election?

Trump had learned that proof was unnecessary. He would begin to spout imaginary counts of election malfeasance. In his speech on the Ellipse January 6 that incited the insurrection, Trump provided a state-by-state accounting, ascribing numbers to votes cast by people who died before the election, lived in another state, registered after deadline, voted more than once, as well as ballots that suddenly appeared, all for Biden. A tally of the numbers he cited in the speech comes to an astounding 2,104,400.

None of his very specific numbers has ever been run to ground. Trump had prefaced his scorecard with, "Over the past several weeks, we've amassed overwhelming evidence about a fake election". Whatever became of that "overwhelming evidence"? His followers would simply take away Trump's assurance that this was so and never ask.

This October, The Wall Street Journal published a close to 900-word letter from Donald Trump in which he lists twenty instances of fraudulent votes by phantom people, dead voters, duplicate registrations — "58,261 first-time, voters 70 years and older, 39,911 people who were added to the voter rolls while under 17 years of age, 39,711 people who were registered to vote after the October 19, 2020 deadline" — and so forth. A torrent of imaginary numbers of an embellished precision meant to convince his devotees that therefore they must be true. Imaginary because no one has since proven any of them. Imaginary because they total a preposterous 931,530 fraudulent votes, to which Trump added "hundreds of thousands" more "unlawfully counted in secret". Did we forget to mention this was just Pennsylvania.

The Associated Press just released a copious analysis of every potential instance of voter fraud in the six battleground states that Trump and his allies challenged — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. For its review, AP reporters contacted roughly 340 election offices in five of the states (the sixth, Wisconsin, has a centralized system) to learn about every instance of potential voter fraud identified as part of their post-election review and certification. Of 25.5 million votes cast, there were only a minuscule 475 deemed improper. And many were errors rather than fraudulent.

Donald Trump's reaction?: "I just don't think you should make a fool out of yourself by saying 400 votes". He told the AP a "soon-to-come report" from an undisclosed source would support all of his claims. There it was again, now fourteen months after the election, the report that never materializes.

None of of this makes a dent in the millions of believers of the Big Lie. So we hear Mr. Schmeck say, "The election was 100% stolen" after 14 months of nonsensical claims and no proof.

For the right wing, he has become a celebrity, appearing on NewsMax and the conservative show hosted by David Harris Jr. and David Medina, according to Schmeck's Instagram page. "It’s so nice to see all of the support from everybody in the comments too. You guys are awesome. Keep up the fight, Patriots! #letsgobrandon”. He is now thinking of running for office.

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