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Impeachment caps a dark and dysfunctional decade in American politics

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By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann  with NBC News Politics
Image: Donald Trump Is Sworn In As 45th President Of The United States
President-elect Donald J. Trump arrives at the inauguration ceremonies.   -   Copyright  Doug Mills Pool via Reuters

WASHINGTON — It's only fitting that the decade is coming to an end with an impeachment vote against the president of the United States, because it's been a dark ten years in American politics.

And it's gotten progressively worse, especially in the last three years.

Consider this timeline of controversy, gridlock, outrage and resentment in our politics:

  • The rise of the Tea Party (2010)
  • The Health Car War (2010-present)
  • Mitch McConnell's "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president" (2010)
  • The Tucson shooting (2011)
  • The debt-ceiling debacle (2011)
  • The Birther movement led by one Donald Trump (2011)
  • The shooting of Trayvon Martin (2012)
  • Barack Obama's campaign nuking Mitt Romney over Bain Capital (2012)
  • Romney's 47-percent comment (2012)
  • Benghazi and its political aftermath (2012-2016)
  • The Newtown shooting (2012)
  • Government shutdown (2013)
  • The rise of Trump (2015-present)
  • Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination (2016)
  • "Lock her up!" (2016)
  • Trump's "American carnage" inaugural address (2017)
  • Trump's 15,000 and counting false or misleading claims (2017-present)
  • Trump's controversial Muslim/travel ban (2017)
  • The rise of the Resistance (2017)
  • The Mueller investigation (2017-2019)
  • The congressional baseball shooting (2017)
  • Charlottesville (2017)
  • The Helsinki press conference (2018)
  • Trump's comments after John McCain passed away (2018)
  • Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination (2018)
  • Pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats and journalists (2018)
  • The 35-day government shutdown (2019)
  • Trump's all-but certain impeachment (2019)

Add them all up, and it's easily the darkest decade in politics since the 1960s. And think of anyone in their 20s right now — it's all they've seen.

They weren't old enough to remember when Democrats and Republicans came together after 9/11 (even though it later led to the disastrous Iraq war).

They weren't old enough to vote in the "Hope and Change" election of 2008, when both political parties had popular presidential nominees.

And they wouldn't believe you if you told them that Obama threw an inaugural ball in McCain's honor after that election.

One other characteristic that has defined the past decade: When given the choice, political actors have typically pursued the more populist/radical/confrontational option.

That was especially true on the right earlier in the decade, and it's become more true on the left in the last few years.

And it's come amid growing polarization in our political media, the rise of social media, and the decline of local news.

And it's all contributed to a dark and dysfunctional decade in our politics.

It's Impeachment Vote Day

The U.S. House of Representatives today will vote to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history, per NBC's Geoff Bennett.

The two articles of impeachment: 1) Abuse of power and 2) obstruction of Congress.

The House gavels in at 9:00 am ET, and the House Judiciary Committee chairman (Democrat Jerrold Nadler) and ranking GOP member (Doug Collins) lead six hours of debate, with time divided equally between Democrats and Republicans.

Barring any delays, NBC's Alex Moe and Bennett believe the final vote on the articles of impeachment will occur between 6:30 pm ET and 7:30 pm ET.

And as it just so happens, Trump is scheduled to speak at a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., beginning at 7:00 pm ET.

Trump's six-page tirade

On the one hand, you have to give credit to President Trump and his allies for fighting this impeachment to a near draw when it comes to public opinion.

Love him or hate him, one of Trump's top political assets is how he wears down — and outlasts — his opposition.

On the other hand, however, you have to acknowledge just how dishonest and disturbed his defenses have been in this entire episode.

And that was underscored by his six-page letter yesterday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "In a rambling six-page letter, Trump accused Pelosi of having 'cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment' and said she was 'declaring open war on American Democracy' by pursuing his impeachment," per NBC News.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … at least 21

At least 21.

That's the number of false or misleading claims counted by the Washington Post in President Trump's letter to Nancy Pelosi yesterday.

Those falsehoods include: His characterization of the 2016 results, his description of his call with the Ukrainian president, and some of his boasts about his administration's policy and economic record.

2020 Vision

Susan Collins announces she's running for re-election: It's not a surprise, but it's still significant: Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced this morning that she's running for re-election.

"The fundamental question I had to ask myself in making my decision was this: in today's polarized political environment, is there still a role for a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship?" she wrote in a letter to supporters, per NBC's Frank Thorp.

"I have concluded that the answer to this question is 'yes,' and I will, therefore, seek the honor of continuing to serve as Maine's United States Senator."

Here's the significance of Collins' decision: Given that Democrats need a net pick up of at least three Senate seats to take back control of the chamber, it's hard to see how Democrats win the Senate without defeating Collins.

Democrats' top pick-up opportunities — from easiest to hardest: Colorado, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina.

And remember, the GOP has a pick-up opportunity in Alabama.

On the campaign trail today

It's a quiet day before tomorrow night's Dem presidential debate… Julian Castro, who didn't qualify for the debate, stumps in the Los Angeles area… Michael Bloomberg holds a health-care roundtable in Medford, Mass… Cory Booker stumps in Nevada… And President Trump holds a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., at 7:00 pm ET.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds

Pete Buttigieg pitched himself to California Democrats last night in Hollywood, and his speech touched on some old Barack Obama themes -- of hope and change. NBC's Priscilla Thompson reports on Buttigieg's remarks: "I refuse to be told that my hope is a function of my age. Because the truth is, my hope for more unified America is a function of my experience as a result of what I saw in my own city - written off at the beginning of this very same decade we're living in now as a dying city that now stands tall, is growing for the first time in a long time, seeing jobs added neighborhoods lifted up the thousands lifted from poverty. It's the hope that I cultivated in the dust of a war zone in Afghanistan among fellow Americans who I had nothing in common with besides the flag on our shoulders, different races, different backgrounds, different politic definitely different politics, but we learned to trust each other with our lives, because we had to."

NBC's Maura Barrett followed a YouTube livestream that Tom Steyer held with young Democrats and picked up on how this may become commonplace for the senators in the 2020 race: "I note the details regarding how the virtual town hall was conducted as speculations swirl around how senators who are also running for president while potentially sitting on an impeachment trial in January might continue to campaign. Obviously, this won't be a problem for Steyer, but Cory Booker's campaign manager floated the idea of tele-town halls on a press call last week and other campaigns are looking for creative solutions; the virtual town hall or other solutions utilizing new technology might something we see more of, come January."

The Lid: Commercial break

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at new polling on the reach of Michael Bloomberg's TV ads.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

Bookmark NBC's impeachment live blog for today.

Adam Schiff is raising questions about how Vice President Mike Pence's office described his call with the Ukrainian president.

Protestors rallied yesterday to show their support for impeachment.

House Republicans are running ads on impeachment, but Democrats are trying their best to change the subject.

Trump Agenda: My Man Mitch

Mitch McConnell says he's not "an impartial juror" in the impeachment trial.

The House Rules Committee approved six hours of debate on the House floor today before the impeachment vote.

The House has passed a $1.4 trillion government spending bill.

Paul Manafort was hospitalized after a "cardiac event."

2020: Biden releases his medical history

Joe Biden has released a three-page summary of his medical history.

Voting rights advocates are worried about a recent voter purge in Georgia.

Pete Buttigieg finally started going after his rivals. Is it working?

POLITICO delves into Pete Buttigieg's Harvard days.

Both Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are trying to crack the code of how to win in California.