Peter Meijer, the fire-haired Iraq war vet, Ivy League grad, and well-heeled scion of the namesake supermarket fortune, was that rare bird when he entered Congress as a 32-year-old on January 3, 2021. Meijer evidenced little interest in building his personal brand through publicity stunts and B.S. culture war media skirmishes. Instead, he had more high-minded goals, like increasing government accountability and competitiveness for Michigan’s third district, which circles Grand Rapids, and used to be Justin Amash territory for all of the aughts.
Alas, within a fortnight of his sojourn to Washington, Meijer would take a vote that would alter his fortune. He was the only freshman among 10 Republican members with the guts to vote for Trump’s impeachment after the January 6 riot that ransacked the Capitol. This quickly made Meijer a lonely man in Washington. As was the case with Liz Cheney in leadership, the Republican party turned on him. And the Democrats, smelling blood, spent to pump up his Trump-ier primary challenger John Gibbs in the hopes that he would eventually self-immolate, a common occurrence in the midterms. Eventually, the MAGA-friendly Gibbs narrowly defeated Meijer in the primary by less than four points; Democrat Hillary Scholten then went on to crush Gibbs by 12 points in a newly redrawn district. The irony for poor beleaguered Kevin McCarthy is that he lost a likely future Only Kevin vote in his pursuit of placating Trump.
After just two years in Congress, Meijer is now speaking some of the harsh truths about the G.O.P.’s losing strategy, the secret to muting Trump, and how a new “type of resentment” against their Dear Leader in D.C. feels different this time around. As for Meijer, given his talent and resources, I have a feeling he’ll be back in some form. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.