Why did Peter Meijer appear with the MAGA challenger who defeated him?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There’s a split about this today among Trump critics on the right, nearly all of whom are fans of Meijer for his impeachment vote.

Enlarge the photos and you’ll see him off to the left in a black shirt and green baseball cap, applauding the man who beat him. Technically Meijer didn’t endorse Gibbs, according to a reporter on the scene — as in, the words “I endorse” evidently didn’t escape his lips. But he “shook Gibbs’ hand, congratulated him on a strong campaign and wished him luck going forward.”

Which feels like an endorsement, no? Opting to participate in a post-primary event aimed at getting Gibbs elected in November is a formal show of support for the party nominee, whatever lawyerly spin one wants to put on it.

To some, that’s just Meijer being gallant. He was gallant last January when he risked his career by voting to impeach Trump and he was gallant again this week when he manned up and congratulated Trump’s instrument of revenge. How pitifully ironic would it have been if Meijer had emulated the president he sought to remove by behaving like a sore loser in defeat? He’s too dignified for that.

He was gallant in an interview after the primary as well. When asked if he had any regrets about his term in Congress, beginning with his impeachment vote, he replied, “Not one. I would rather lose office with my character intact than stay reelected having made sacrifices of the soul.” He’s a good man. Our fallen country deserves John Gibbs.

But hold on. Who was it again who said this of Gibbs recently?

Gibbs, a former political appointee in the Trump administration, denies the results of the 2020 presidential election. (“I think when you look at the results of the 2020 election, there are anomalies in there, to put it very lightly, that are simply mathematically impossible,” he said last month in a televised debate.) Gibbs has accused Obama administration officials of taking part in bizarre Satanic rituals. He defended antisemites on his now-locked Twitter account, and has tweeted that Democrats are the party of “Islam, gender-bending, anti-police, ‘u racist!’”…

So you would think that the Democrats would look at John Gibbs and see the embodiment of what they say they most fear. That as patriots they would use every tool at their disposal to defeat him and similar candidates that they’ve said are an existential threat.

Why, that was Peter Meijer, writing a few days before the primary at Bari Weiss’s site. Does Meijer not agree with Democrats that a takeover of the GOP by election truthers like Gibbs is an existential threat to the country?

If he does, what was he doing trying to get Gibbs elected to Congress at that event last night?

Did he at least ask for some “country over party” concessions from the new nominee before he agreed to show up?

Democrats seem more upset today at their party for having endorsed Gibbs than Meijer himself does:

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who has made protecting democracy a hallmark of her work, called out the decision of some in her party to provide support to Gibbs.

“If we are going to say as a party — or as leaders — that we believe in a healthy democracy, which requires citizens to be informed and engaged, we have to live out those values in everything we do,” Benson said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Interference with another party’s primary does not reflect those values.”

She called it “a dangerous game to play for anyone, as part of some strategy, to support election deniers.”

Not so dangerous a game that Meijer won’t play it, it appears.

I’m mystified as to how he reconciles his op-ed about Gibbs with his not-an-endorsement endorsement. If Democrats are scumbags for quietly funding Gibbs’s campaign while running around screaming that MAGA candidates are a threat to democracy, what should we make of Meijer for helping to mainstream Gibbs before the general election? Of what sin, exactly, is the DCCC guilty that Meijer himself isn’t?

I mean, for all their cynicism, the DCCC has never wanted Gibbs to actually win the seat this fall. Can the same be said of Meijer post-primary?

One could argue, I guess, that what the Democrats did is worse because the help Gibbs got from them was more meaningful than the joint appearance he got from Meijer. But I’m not sure that’s true. Maybe the ad spending by Dems was decisive in the race, but it’s possible that Meijer’s impeachment vote coupled with Trump’s endorsement was all Gibbs needed to win. Meanwhile, there are doubtless many Republican voters in the district who supported Meijer in the primary because they believed in “country over party” and who might have been leery about supporting Gibbs in the general election — but are now less leery after he received Meijer’s seal of semi-approval.

I don’t know how else to read Meijer’s actions here except either (a) he doesn’t agree with Dems that Trump and his handpicked cronies are an existential threat or (b) he does agree but believes that any random Democrat who might win his seat is by definition a greater existential threat.

The thing is, I doubt he believes either of those things. I think, in all likelihood, he was at the event just to preserve some goodwill within the Michigan GOP in case the whole MAGA thing blows over someday and an opportunity for an independent-minded Republican to run for Senate materializes. Meijer is just 34 years old, after all. Recall that Trump was barely a blip on the Republican radar 10 years ago apart from some mutterings about Obama’s birth certificate, then reflect on how different Republican politics might look 10 years from now. Meijer will be 44 then, still a very young man by the standards of pols who seek statewide office. Maybe he’s playing the long game here — and, for once, is willing to put party over country to do it.

Anyway, it’s crystal clear from all this that Trump won the GOP civil war in Michigan. Exit question: Who won it in Georgia?