Rep. Peter Meijer’s office is filled with memorabilia. There are old advertisements for brands his family’s grocery store used to sell, lots of nods to fellow Grand Rapids native Gerald Ford, and the escape hood he wore on Jan. 6, when a violent mob attacked the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Meijer was one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump for encouraging his supporters on that day. It’s a vote that could become a political liability in GOP primaries, but the freshman from Michigan has no interest in shying away from it — hence the mementos, which help steel the moral clarity he felt on that day. “It’s really easy, as time fades, to forget,” he says.
Meijer talked about that vote, his raw hatred of breakfast foods and Capitol Hill’s lack of culture (in the anthropological sense).
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: I know Republicans don’t usually care about identity politics, but you’re one of the only redheads in Congress right now.
A: I actually had a young man who identifies as a ginger reach out to me on social media and say it was wonderful to have a ginger he could look up to. Unfortunately, I don’t believe he agreed with the impeachment vote.
Q: Your family founded the eponymous chain of grocery stores. Where do you shop for groceries while you’re in D.C.?
A: Trader Joe’s, but I sometimes bring stuff from Michigan as well. I will say, as somebody who also lived in New York and had to deal with some not great grocery options, urban areas may have a wonderful bounty when it comes to bars and restaurants, but they do not do the grocery format like the Midwest does.
Q: You’ve had a pretty eventful first few months in Washington. What’s surprised you the most?
A: I’ve really enjoyed some of the conversations on the floor or in the cloak room. On some votes, maybe your staff recommends one way or the other, but you also want to do a gut check. There’s still room for persuasion.
Q: You majored in cultural anthropology. What are your trained insights into Capitol Hill culture?
A: It’s mostly a combination of a number of external incentives brought to life. At the member level, it’s what everyone’s seeing in their own districts. At the staff level, it’s a little bit of that and also just trying to understand the institution. So I wouldn’t go so far as to give it the credibility of having its own culture.
Q: A lot of people were quick to write your political obituary after your impeachment vote. Why do you think they’re wrong?
A: Our political system is full of folks who were left for dead and then revived themselves. And in this case, the easiest thing to do sometimes isn’t prudent or wise. When you’re in a chaotic situation, and you only focus on what’s best in the short term politically — a bunch of things that make sense in the short term add up to a long-term categorical error. So, I guess I’m not as worried as people assume I would or should be. And if politics requires the degree of soul-selling many think it does, then there are bigger problems for me to worry about than just keeping a seat.
Last book read? “Revolt of the Public” by Martin Gurri
Can the ends justify the means? It depends on what the ends are and what the means are. If the means is winning control, but you burn it all down to achieve it, then what are you left with when you win?
Least popular opinion? Breakfast is the worst meal of the day, and every breakfast food that’s specifically for breakfast is garbage. I’m militant on this. I think actually Donald Trump agrees with me. [Ed. note — We couldn’t fit everything he said here, but Meijer also used phrases like “absolute scam,” “doesn’t even taste that good” and “worst thing you could eat.”]
America’s best president? [Gestures to one of the many pieces of Gerald Ford memorabilia in his office]
Closest friend across the aisle? Ritchie Torres. That’s an easier question [than friends on my side of the aisle], because I don’t want to out them.