Rep. Peter Meijer, Iraq veteran, says US needs to plan for future: ‘I’m very worried about long-term trends’
Rep. Peter Meijer, the new GOP congressman from West Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, grew up watching “The Daily Show” when comedian Jon Stewart would roast lawmakers for their hypocrisy by contrasting their past comments with videos of their new change of heart.Rep. Peter Meijer, the new GOP congressman from West Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, grew up watching “The Daily Show” when comedian Jon Stewart would roast lawmakers for their hypocrisy by contrasting their past comments with videos of their new change of heart.FeedzyRead More
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Rep. Peter Meijer, the new GOP congressman from West Michigan‘s 3rd Congressional District, grew up watching “The Daily Show” when comedian Jon Stewart would roast lawmakers for their hypocrisy by contrasting their past comments with videos of their new change of heart.
Meijer was turned off by how politicians’ principles could be so squishy that they could condemn a president for doing something, but four years later praise a new president for doing the same thing just because their party is in charge. The segments made an impression on Meijer, who decided he’d never act that way.
Now Meijer, 32, enters Congress as one of the younger members and brings to Washington a commitment to long-term planning and a pledge that his principles won’t change with the political winds.
“I don’t want to be a hypocrite,” Meijer, R-Mich., said in an interview with Fox News during congressional orientation. “I don’t want to be a partisan hack.”
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Meijer is an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq and a former civilian conflict analyst who worked in Afghanistan to support humanitarian aid efforts. Those experiences informed Meijer’s belief that America needs to invest in long-term planning of, say, 50 years down the road, rather than constantly responding to short-term crises.
He said he decided to run for office because no politician could convince him that America has a long-term plan to tackle pressing problems.
Meijer launched his congressional bid against incumbent Rep. Justin Amash, who became disillusioned with the GOP under President Trump’s grip and eventually left the party to become a Libertarian. Amash later decided to retire from Congress, and Meijer won the competitive open seat.
“As somebody who is planning to be around for 50-plus years, I’m very worried about the long-term trends in our debt and deficit,” Meijer told Fox News. “I’m very worried about where health care cost projections are going. I’m obviously concerned about our involvement in the world more broadly, but also just the perpetuity of our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.”
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He’s focused on long-term planning for the good of the nation.
“One of the principles that’s inherently conservative is the idea of sustainability,” Meijer said. “Oftentimes, we use it in an environmental sense and that’s definitely a component, but also fiscal sustainability, political sustainability [and] civic sustainability.”
Meijer campaigned on bringing “strong, stable, and effective” representation to West Michigan. He invoked the steady leadership of former President Gerald Ford, who represented the Grand Rapids district for 25 years in Congress before his ascension to the vice presidency and the Oval Office.
In one of his first acts of Congress, Meijer stood up against President Trump’s demands that Congress toss out the electoral votes of swing states that President-elect Joe Biden won. Meijer authored a letter with other Republicans before the Jan. 6 vote to say it would be unconstitutional for Congress to steal power away from the people and states. “[W]e have sworn an oath to promote the Constitution above our policy goals,” the letter said.
After pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a deadly mob, Meijer condemned his fellow Republicans for spreading falsehoods that the election was stolen and Trump fans could reverse the outcome by showing up on Jan. 6.
“They lied. They deceived. They did it either to save their own political skins or to make a quick fundraising buck,” Meijer said in a scathing video in the aftermath of the attack. “It’s contemptible.”
Meijer grew up in Grand Rapids, born into one of the most prominent and richest families in Michigan. He is the grandson of Frederik Meijer, the founder of the Meijer grocery store which started in West Michigan but has since ballooned to a regional force with 240 supercenters in six states. His father, Hank Meijer, is the executive chairman of the family business.
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Until now, the Meijers have been more low-key about politics. That’s in contrast to another wealthy West Michigan household — the DeVos family — that have been deep-pocketed GOP donors and both Betsy DeVos and husband Dick DeVos public Republican figures.
Meijer said he’ll be the first one of his family in elected office. The family has traditionally focused on community contributions rather than politics, being mindful their customers have diverse political views. “I’ve taken a decidedly kind of different path than many others in my family,” Meijer acknowledged.
Meijer graduated from East Grand Rapids High School, the inspiration for the iconic teen film “American Pie.” Meijer said his high school days were a far cry from the movie, as he starting a group for East Grand Rapids teenaged Republicans, worked for the school newspaper and ran cross country. “It was very all-American, but also very, very PG-13.”
His experience in the family business has been limited to spending summers stocking shelves and corralling shopping carts in the parking lot, Meijer said.
After high school, Meijer set out to forge his own independent path outside of the comforts of Michigan.
He started off in New York at West Point Military Academy in 2006, but said he left after a year because he was increasingly unsure if he wanted to be an Army officer and on active duty.
He transferred to Columbia University and enlisted in the Army Reserves. He took time off from his education for Army training and his eventual deployment to Iraq. He graduated in 2012.
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Meijer became involved in veterans causes such as Student Veterans of America, where he urged Congress to pass the post 9/11 GI Bill, along with the bipartisan super PAC called With Honor that aims to elect more principled veterans to reduce political polarization.
He joined the veterans’ service group Team Rubicon to help with disaster response in places like South Sudan and the Philippines.
During his work in Afghanistan helping non-governmental organizations operate in conflict zones, Meijer purposely stopped using his prominent last name to avoid having a bigger target for a bounty kidnapping. He went by his two middle names: Peter James Frederik.
“There’s already a high enough kidnapping and ransom threat [for Americans] without throwing in any stronger financial incentive,” Meijer said of his work in Kandahar.
Meijer served a total of 12 years in the Army reserves, an experience that helped him overcome the personal question of whether his accomplishments were due to his own efforts or because of the advantages of his upbringing.
“There are very few things that will bolster your self-confidence than realizing you can get off a plane at just about any airport in the world including a war zone and figure out how to not die,” Meijer said.
He preferred being enlisted in the Army rather than becoming a commissioned officer through West Point.
“I probably tended towards enlisting because every chevron on my sleeve was something I earned solely based on merit,” Meijer said.
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During the campaign, he was hit with negative attack ads that he’s out of touch with the struggles of West Michigan because of his more than $50 million trust fund.
Meijer responded by talking of his years of putting himself in harm’s way to help others.
“How come the spoiled rich kid is spending three years in places where you get malaria in South Sudan and get rockets landed near him in Iraq and living on his own in Kandahar city?” Meijer said.
Meijer went on to complete a master’s in business administration at New York University and decided to make his way home to Michigan about three years ago. He started working in real estate development with Detroit’s Olympia Development, founded by the famed Illitch family that owns Little Ceasars, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Detroit Tigers.
While he was at NYU in 2017, Meijer registered various websites to himself including domain names for MeijerforPresident.com, according to opposition research revealed during the campaign.
Asked whether he intends to follow in Ford’s footsteps to the White House, Meijer brushed off the notion, saying it was just one of a couple of hundred domains he registered to own his name.
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“I do not have any plans along those lines,” Meijer said.
“I also probably registered Meijer for dog catcher just to make sure I was covering the broad swath of every possibility.”