Let Me Tell You a Story About Pete and Mike
Why do some men continue to support the parties that cast them aside?
Long, loooong piece about Pete Meijer today and the bizarre psychology of a man who is hated by Republican voters and the Republican party—but insists on helping that party anyway.
It’s a journey. —JVL
Pete Meijer is a guy with famous name and inherited wealth who thinks he should be in politics. Yesterday he announced that he’s running for the Senate.
His story is instructive, but first we’re going to have to recap some history.
Meijer was the archetype of the Good Republican. Young, classically conservative. Hawkish. He won his House seat in 2020 and a few days after he was sworn in was asked to vote in the second impeachment of Donald Trump. Meijer did his duty, and for that America will always owe him a debt.
But what Meijer did after his impeachment vote was mystifying. Local Republican officials talked about assassinating him. (Keep in mind that this is Michigan, where political violence was in the water.) And in response Meijer just kind of . . . pretended that he was living in a mythical “post-Trump future.” He criticized Democrats and tried to make nice with the Republican voters who hated him. He avoided talking about the late unpleasantness unless he absolutely had to.
In 2022, Meijer drew a MAGA primary challenge from a guy named John Gibbs who was, as the saying goes, manifestly unfit. Gibbs won.
How Gibbs won is slightly complicated. On the one hand, the DCCC got involved in the primary and spent money running “attack ads” that portrayed Gibbs as a MAGA crazy. The intended effect of these ads, of course, was to raise Gibbs’s name-ID. They worked. Without those DCCC ads, maybe Meijer would have beat Gibbs.1
But on the other hand, the Republican party gave Meijer no help. Kevin McCarthy did not barnstorm the district to give him cover. Fox News hosts were not trying to shield him. No one at the institutional level of the GOP or in Conservatism Inc. lifted a finger for Meijer. While they all liked him, they were afraid of being seen as giving aid and comfort to a guy on Trump’s enemies list.
The net-net of all of this was the creation of the following set of rules:
(1) Republican voters are who they are. There’s no helping it. You can’t expect them to choose wisely if they have full knowledge of the candidates.
(2) Republican elites can’t get their hands dirty defending Good Republicans like Meijer, because it might make them toxic.
(3) Instead, it is the job of Democrats to protect Good Republicans from Republican voters.
Funnily enough, Meijer himself seemed to agree with this proposition. Following his primary defeat, he wrote:
I was immediately censured by two county parties in my old district. In my new district, the Republican Party of the largest county repudiated me a few weeks ago. The Michigan GOP Chair joked about my assassination. There have been too many online threats to count.
Watching this unraveling inside my party has been utterly bewildering. The only thing that has been more nauseating has been the capacity of my Democratic colleagues to sell out any pretense of principle for political expediency . . .
The bolding is mine because I want you to look at what Meijer is saying here: That Democrats choosing expediency over principle was worse than Republicans threatening his life.
On the face of it, this statement seems bizarre. But it does make sense if you view Republicans as children with no agency and Democrats as adults who have self-control, responsibilities, and duties.
Which is clearly how Meijer sees the world.
In Tim Alberta’s big profile from 2022, Meijer muses that one of the problems with the Republican party as it in the real world is that it has an “inability to affirmatively and consistently reject anti-Semitism and white supremacy.”
That is his view of the Republican party and Republican voters.
All of which brings us to this week when Meijer announced that he would run for the Senate in Michigan . . . as a Republican.
The obvious analogy here is to Mike Pence.