How each of these questions plays out will reveal something about the future of the alt-right. If attendance is very low, for instance, it may signal that Charlottesville was a sobering moment for the movement, perhaps with some adherents reconsidering their tactics, and with other people reconsidering their involvement altogether.
If attendance is very high, on the other hand, it likely means that the Charlottesville rally was an energizing event for the alt-right, even with its culmination in a terrorist attack, and that would be cause for serious concern. If attendance is high and the participants include more of the same Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists in garish costumes and armed to the teeth, it would be hard to interpret that as anything less than extremely alarming.
If attendance is low, on the other hand, while met with very large and peaceful counter-protests, that would be an extremely encouraging turn of events, highlighting the marginal nature of the movement and helping to reinforce a strong social center standing in opposition to the latest wave of racist extremism to rock America.
And of course, there are many possible outcomes in between these two poles, which will require unpacking. A large turnout from the alt-right but an even larger presence of peaceful counter-protesters might bode well for the overall mood of the country but reinforce the idea that the alt-right is here to stay. A small turnout from both sides would be more difficult to assess. An aggressive showing by antifa groups looking to meet violence with violence could lead to further escalation.
There is one more wild card to consider: the president of the United States, who is scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday. Based on his past failures to repudiate white nationalism, there’s a good chance he will continue to hedge his language with weak equivocations. But the political pressure to say more is rapidly mounting, and the president may find himself backed into a corner.
If President Trump somehow manages to issue a convincing and unequivocal condemnation of Unite the Right specifically and white nationalism more broadly, and if he can do it without visibly seething about the necessity, the reaction from the alt-right should be fascinating and informative. Given his history, it’s a very long shot that the president will be able to successfully check all of those boxes, but it’s not impossible.
If the president successfully repudiates the alt-right, it’s anyone’s guess what happens next. Some portion of the alt-right is more enamored of Trumpism than of white nationalism. These are not mutually exclusive categories at the moment, but if Trump manages to change that dynamic, it’s unclear where the chips may fall.
Would the alt-right turn against the president en masse, or in part? And if so, what impact would that have on his already flagging poll numbers? Would some be enraged and adopt an even more violent posture? Would they be discouraged? Would they shrug it off? Or would they splinter into yet more factions, stealing their momentum and forcing a massive retrenchment?