Transcript: Robert Pape on “Face the Nation,” Sept. 18, 2022

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The following is a transcript of an interview with University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape that aired Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to democracy and politics. University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape studies political violence. And Professor Pape, Good morning to you. 

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PROFESSOR ROBERT PAPE: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have you here in person. When we spoke back in January, about the research you’ve done at that point, you issued a warning that stuck with us because you talked about the threat of political violence around the midterm elections. We are 50 days away. What are you worried about now?

PAPE: Margaret, we have not just a political threat to our democracy, we have a violent threat to our democracy. It’s important to remember that January 6, wasn’t just trespassing and going into a federal building. Thousands of individuals used violence to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power. What we have been tracking at our center at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, for a year and a half is the violent portion of that insurrectionist movement. Today, there are millions of individuals who don’t just think the election was stolen in 2020; they support violence to restore Donald Trump to the White House. In fact, just over the weekend, that is just a few days ago, we conducted our most recent nationally representative survey. Today, there are 13 million individuals, the equivalent, I should say, of 13 million individuals who support the use of force to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s about five percent of the US population.

PAPE: Five percent.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have extrapolated out from your research. That’s obviously disturbing. I want to ask you about the context we are in right now, because we’re seeing a lot of stressors, the economy clearly one of them, and what we’ve been talking about today, immigration and migration. You were on last time talking about something called the Great Replacement Theory, and that is the belief among some of these insurrectionists that the Democratic Party is trying to replace voters with new people, more obedient voters. How widespread is that conviction and does what is happening now in cities up and down the east coast trigger this?

PAPE: It likely could Margaret reinforce these fears of the Great Replacement. To be clear, we’re focusing on not just support for Trump, but the violent support for Trump that overrides democracy. And when you look at that, what you see is there are two big drivers among those 13 million individuals. The first driver is this fear of the Great Replacement, the idea that the Democratic Party is replacing the current electorate the current White electorate, with more minority voters from the third world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And to be clear, non-U.S. citizens cannot vote in federal elections in the midterm races just to be abundantly clear.

PAPE: That’s right. That is correct. It is a conspiracy theory but it’s not just on fringe social media like Parler or Gab, 4chan, 8chan. This is every day on Fox News, it’s on Newsmax, it’s on One America, it’s on talk radio. So this is driver number one. Driver number two is a belief in the Qanon cult idea, which at first blush sounds a little, almost laughable, that said they would believe a satanic group of pedophiles, runs the US government. But we’ve done focus groups with these folks. And what they really mean by that, Margaret, is that there are politicians that have gotten on the Lolita Express with Jeffrey Epstein, and have taken money for foundations, for political support–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Corruption.

PAPE: For corruption. That’s what’s really going on. So if you marry those two together, you have a dangerous cocktail. You have the fear of this Great Replacement happening by a Democratic Party, and then you have the fear of corruption and immorality, and that’s that dangerous combination that’s leading to violent support against our democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you just mentioned Qanon. And as you just explained, it’s a set of conspiracy theories involving sex trafficking, and there is this belief that President- former President Trump is the one person or one of the people who can end it all. And I want to play some video here because at a political rally last night, Mr. Trump used a song titled after a Qanon slogan. I’m going to play the sound, and and listeners will have to listen to the music, not necessarily what the President is saying, listen to the background music.

DONALD TRUMP SOT: It would never have happened with me as your Commander in Chief. And for four long years, it didn’t happen. and China, with Taiwan is next.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is a QAnon song. The former president has posted images of himself wearing a Q on his lapel on social media with the phrase, “The storm is coming.” That’s another one of their slogans. What- what does all of this mean, and is it threatening?

PAPE: First, it is threatening, just to cut right to the heart of it. What it means is that the former president is willing to court not just supporters of his but those who support violence for his goals, number one of which is being restored to the White House. This is extremely disturbing, because well, in the fall of 2020, in a presidential debate, Donald Trump could be asked, ‘Well, do you know what a proud boy is, or do you know what QAnon is?’ And he could say, ‘Oh, I’m not so sure.’ That’s not the case today. Today, it’s quite clear. And the problem that we face is that over and over in tweets by the former president, he is deliberately stoking not just the fires of anger getting him political support, but the fires that are leading to that violent 13, the equivalent of 13 million. And that is really the heart of our problem that we face as a threat to democracy. Because if it’s just a political threat, well, then we can have elections, but once it’s not just denying an election, but using violence as the response to an election denial, now we’re in a new game. And that’s why it’s so important we have this conversation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What has the FBI search of the former president’s home done to the people you are tracking?

PAPE: So, what we’ve done in our poll, the one that we just recently did over the weekend, is we asked an additional question, which is, ‘Do you believe that the use of force is justified to prevent the prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information?’ And the numbers go up a bit. Not huge- goes from 13 to 15 million. But interestingly, when we pull apart the data, you get a slightly different set of supporters. So, what’s really concerning is there’s a little bit of ebb and flow that goes up as we see new issues come on the horizon and that means that we need to just realize this is really important, and we need to have this national conversation about what we really want in our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s why we have you here today to- to start that conversation sir. Thank you for sharing your information. We’ll be back in a moment.

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