Peter Meijer, Freshman Congressman from Grand Rapids, Michigan

Rep. Peter Meijer (R., Mich.) during his 2020 campaign (Peter Meijer for Congress, via YouTube)

Peter Meijer is a very interesting addition to the political scene. I have done a Q&A podcast with him, here. He is a congressman from Michigan — Grand Rapids. He is a Republican, of independent mind. A nervy guy.

His father is Hendrik “Hank” Meijer, with whom I did a Q&A three years ago. Meijer père had written a biography of that Grand Rapidian Arthur Vandenberg (an excellent book). In addition to the podcast, I wrote about Hank Meijer and his book, here.

Meijer (Hank) is the executive chairman of the family business, Meijer. We’re talking about a chain of “superstores” or “supercenters.” They started out as humble grocery stores. They are a very big deal in my home state of Michigan, and a bit beyond. The Meijer name is as famous as “Ford.” (I’m talking about the automakers now, not the late president.)

What was it like growing up Meijer in Grand Rapids? In our podcast, the congressman tells me. (“Bizarre.”) (In fact, he says that more than once: “bizarre.”)

Peter Meijer went to West Point, Columbia, and NYU. At Columbia, he majored in poli-sci and anthro. We talk some anthro. He has interesting stories. Between his junior and senior years of college, Meijer served in Iraq. Who lost Iraq, by the way? Obama? (No, says Meijer.) We also talk a lot of Afghanistan. What should we do now? (Try not to make things worse, for one thing.)

Getting to fundamentals, I ask Meijer why he ran for office. Post-9/11 veterans should seek office, he says. They should try to reduce the nation’s political polarization. They should think about long-term problems, which are usually scanted for short-term politics: the debt, the deficit, health-care spending, etc.

A technicality or two aside, Meijer sits in the House seat long occupied by Gerald R. Ford. Is Meijer too young to have met Ford? (Meijer is 33.) Oh, no: He met him several times, and, when Ford died in 2006, served in his funeral detail.

Three days after Meijer was sworn in as a congressman, a mob attacked the Capitol. He was, of course, present. We talk about January 6 at length. Very quickly, denial set in — even before the blood was cleaned from the marble. The mindset is: It was no big deal — just a protest that got a little rowdy — and, besides, Antifa and BLM did it.

On January 13, Meijer was one of a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump. (Shortly after, he and others purchased body armor.) I ask Meijer whether he figured, in casting that vote, he was making himself a one-term congressman. His answer: If that makes him a one-term congressman, then Congress is not the place for him to be, and he should make his contributions elsewhere.

More fundamentals: “Why are you a Republican?” Meijer says that he believes in limited government, economic freedom, individual liberty . . . I almost laugh in his face, poor guy. “You believe in that old-fashioned stuff?” “You gotta stick to the classics,” he answers. “Aren’t we all statists now?” I tease him. “Don’t we all want big, paternalistic, protective government, either of a pink hue or a brown hue?” “When it comes to the parties, absolutely,” Meijer answers. “I still think there are some individuals who are holding out hope for a better way.”

Government, says Meijer, “should not be the mechanism through which we seek to accomplish our hopes and dreams and aspirations, but a mechanism that acts as a sort of referee” — and so on.

Very old-fashioned stuff from this young fellow. Peter Meijer is a throwback — also darned interesting. You may like getting to know him. Again, that Q&A is here.

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