By Jackson Sharman ‘22

For a while, President Trump liked John Heilemann, a political journalist and host of Showtime’s “The Circus,” and national affairs analyst for NBC and MSNBC. Heilemann said Trump liked him because he was one of the first pundits to consider Trump running for president in his 2012 best-selling book Double Down: Game Change 2012.

On May 3 in a packed Stackhouse Theater, Heilemann delivered a talk to a combination of students, alumni, faculty and community members. He covered a variety of subjects all concerning the current state of American politics and took questions at the end. 

Heilemann coming to Mock Convention as the keynote speaker for the Spring Kick-Off was no accident. The Mock Con team wanted someone who could offer a measured and experienced perspective on modern political events. The convention’s General Chair Jimmy Fleck said, “We wanted someone who was more centrist, not partisan. We didn’t want someone divisive.”

However, while Heilemann is considered a voice of political reason by many, he did not shy away from discussing controversial events. He focused much of his time offering his analysis on the environment that the released Mueller report has created. “The post-Mueller era is a different time in American politics,” Heilemann said. 

Heilemann said that we are living in a different landscape now than the past two years because the main threat to the presidency, Robert Mueller and his team of investigators, has passed. He did say that there was much to be troubled by in the Mueller report, but unlike some others in the media and Congress, he does not believe there was enough in the report to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Heilemann also spoke about what he considers to be the significant challenges facing America, with polarization being the most prominent. He described that there is far less positive interaction between Democrats and Republicans than there used to be. He even talked of marriage as something that has changed: “What you can’t do now is marry outside your party.”

Heilemann also spoke to the existing political landscape, and acknowledged that Trump’s past three predecessors contributed to America’s divisiveness. He said that Clinton, Bush and Obama all came into office wanting to make a change for the better, but all three ultimately failed. “What all three of those guys discovered over eight years is that this problem is really baked into the cake,” he said. 

Heilemann offered this as a possible reason for why Trump was successful in 2016. Without a discernible ideology, Trump rebuked the establishment (Republicans and Democrats alike), giving people some hope. 

Heilemann ended with the parting message that he thinks it will be a very dark and uninspiring political fight in 2020. With a large Democratic field and a current president who rarely backs down from a vitriolic fight, the Mock Convention Political Team has their work cut out for them.