PHOENIX — There were moments when Paul Davis questioned his decision to join the crowd that marched on the United States Capitol last January. When he was publicly identified and fired from his job as a lawyer. When his fiancée walked out.
But then something shifted. Instead of lingering as an indelible stain, Jan. 6 became a galvanizing new beginning for Mr. Davis. He started his own law practice as a “lawyer for patriots” representing anti-vaccine workers. He began attending local conservative meetings around his hometown, Frisco, Texas. As the national horror over the Capitol attack calcified into another fault line of bitter division, Mr. Davis said his status as a Jan. 6 attendee had become “a badge of honor” with fellow conservatives.
“It definitely activated me more,” said Mr. Davis, who posted a video of himself in front of a line of police officers outside the Capitol but said he did not enter the building and was expressing his constitutional rights to protest. He has not been charged with any crime from that day. “It gave me street cred.”
The post-mortems and prosecutions that followed that infamous day have focused largely on the violent core of the mob. But a larger group has received far less attention: the thousands who traveled to Washington at the behest of Mr. Trump to protest the results of a democratic election, the vast majority of whom did not set foot in the Capitol and have not been charged with any crime — who simply went home.
For these Donald Trump supporters, the next chapter of Jan. 6 is not the ashes of a disgraced insurrection, but an amorphous new movement fueled by grievances against vaccines and President Biden, and a deepened devotion to his predecessor’s lies about a stolen election.
In the year since the attack, many have plunged into new fights and new conspiracy theories sown in the bloody chaos of that day. They have organized efforts to raise money for the people charged in the Capitol attack, casting them as political prisoners. Some are speaking at conservative rallies. Others are running for office.
Interviews with a dozen people who were in the large mass of marchers show that the worst attack on American democracy in generations has mutated into an emblem of resistance. Those interviewed are just a fraction of the thousands who attended the rally, but their reflections present a troubling omen should the country face another close presidential election.
Many Jan. 6 attendees have shifted their focus to what they see as a …….