Pro-Trump rally may be a dud — but that proves the power of the Big Lie
Supporters of President Donald Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. - Yuri Gripas/Yuri Gripas/TNS

In anticipation of another gathering of Trump followers at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, the various law enforcement agencies aren't taking any chances. The fences are back up and officials have called for back-up from local police; the National Guard has already gone out. The rallygoers are gathering to protest the prosecution and incarceration of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. Organizers claim they are being held as political prisoners in cruel conditions, so one can understand why the authorities are concerned.

Most observers of extremist forums seem to think this so-called "Justice for J6" event isn't going to be very well-attended. Law enforcement reckons maybe 700 people will show up. This is not all that surprising since the organizer Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign official, has told those who show that will not be allowed to wear their usual MAGA costumes or carry Trump regalia, which would have been like telling Deadheads they couldn't wear tie-dye or smoke pot at a Grateful Dead concert. He took the fun right out of it for the vast majority of Trumpers.

There is, of course, the danger that some of the more violent types could attend for their own reasons. (There doesn't seem to be any prohibition against wearing military gear or Proud Boys t-shirts.) But according to NBC's Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, the word has gone forth on extremist Facebook groups and forums such as TheDonald and 4chan that the whole thing is a "false flag" or a "honeypot" by the government designed to bring more patriots to Washington so they can be arrested and thrown into the dungeons with the other "political prisoners."

Brayand responds that those people are the real false flag and these comments are being planted to deter people from protesting the supposed stolen election and the government's ill-treatment of the supposedly innocent protesters of January 6th. There seems to be a lack of trust among the paranoid extremists these days. Go figure.

Perhaps most importantly, no big names or MAGA stars will be attending, not even attention hogs like Congressional Reps Matt Gaetz, R-Fl, or Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga. Trump himself was thought to be ignoring the whole thing until Thursday when he sent out a statement of support:

Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election. In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!

He also told The Federalist in an agitated interview that he too believes the rally to be a "set-up." But predictably his view is that if a big crowd shows up it will be an excuse for the media to "harass" the protesters and if only a few show up they'll say it makes him look bad. (His direct quote was"if people don't show up they'll say, 'Oh, it's a lack of spirit.')

Always in fear of offending his followers, Trump's trying to have it both ways. Not that there's anything new about that.

In the new book "Peril" by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, when former House Speaker Paul Ryan demanded that Trump denounce white supremacy in the wake of Charlottesville, Trump reportedly responded, "These people love me. These are my people. I can't backstab the people who support me." Evidently, he somehow came to believe that by saying Nazis are bad, but there were "very fine people on both sides," that he had successfully covered his bases.

He really needn't worry, of course. His people are still with him — now more than ever.

According to a new CNN survey, 63% of all respondents believe Biden "legitimately won enough votes to win the presidency." That's a shockingly low number since it's obvious that Biden legitimately won and normally this isn't even in question. But even more shocking is the fact that 78% of Republicans don't believe it. That's up from 70% a few months ago. In other words the Big Lie isn't dissipating. It's gaining steam.

The Public Religion Research Institute also released a poll that asked who people blame for the January 6th insurrection. 56% of those surveyed hold Trump responsible. Republicans? 15%.

The CNN poll asked if people feel democracy is under attack or is being tested and 93% agreed that it was one or the other. Of course, they are right. The problem is that Republicans believe that it's Democrats who are doing it when the truth is the opposite. Most distressing is a fatalistic attitude among Democrats who, after seeing Republican partisans change voting rules and pass laws suppressing votes all over the country, are coming to believe that elections will not reflect the will of the people. 90% believed they would in January. It's down to 69% today and for good reason.

Despite no evidence of fraud and two previous audits of the 2020 election, this week Pennsylvania Republicans issued subpoenas for the names, addresses, driver's license numbers and the last four digits of Social Security numbers for millions of people who cast ballots in the primary and general election last year. What can they possibly do with that information? It's hard to see this as anything more than another attempt to undermine confidence in democracy.

And I doubt most Democrats are even aware of the former president latest nefarious activity. As CNN's Daniel Dale pointed out, Trump's endorsement this week of Rep. Mark Finchem for Arizona Secretary of State is the latest in a series of moves to place Big Lie supporters into those crucial positions ahead of the 2024 election. This was the third such supporter he's endorsed in a battleground state — the other two are Michigan and Georgia.

This isn't just Trump rewarding his loyal followers. This is a strategic plan. Secretaries of State run elections. No wonder Americans are losing faith in democracy. It's being actively undermined before their very eyes.

This weekend's rally at the Capitol may turn out to be a dud. But it would be a mistake to think that the air has gone out of the Big Lie or the MAGA movement. Trump is making sure to take care of his base and they still love him for it. And in the meantime, he and his henchmen are working overtime to ensure that elections are in the hands of those who will take care of him in return.