GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Rep. Peter Meijer cites Gerald R. Ford as his inspiration these days, not because the former president held his House seat for 24 years or because his name is all over this city — from its airport to its freeway to its arena — but because in Ford, the freshman congressman sees virtues lost to his political party.
Ford took control after a president resigned rather than be impeached for abusing his power in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of an election.
“It was a period of turmoil,” said Meijer, who was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Ford’s greatest asset, he added, was “offering — this word is becoming too loaded of late — a sense of morals, moral leadership, a sense of value and centering decency and humility.”
Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times
“Sometimes when you’re surrounded by cacophony, it helps to have someone sitting there who isn’t adding another screaming voice onto the pile,” Meijer added.
Six months after the Capitol attack and 53 miles southeast of Grand Rapids, on John Parish’s farm in the hamlet of Vermontville, Meijer’s problems sat on folding chairs on the Fourth of July. They ate hot dogs, listened to bellicose speakers and espoused their own beliefs that reflected how, even at age 33, Meijer may represent the Republican Party’s past more than its future.
The stars of the “Festival of Truth” on Sunday were adding their screaming voices onto the pile, and the 100 or so West Michiganders in the audience were enthusiastically soaking it up. Many of them inhabited an alternative reality in which Trump was reelected, their votes were stolen, the deadly Jan. 6 mob was peaceful, coronavirus vaccines were dangerous and conservatives were oppressed.
“God is forgiving, and — I don’t know — we’re forgiving people,”