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It's been a turbulent last 20 years in American politics

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: The U.S. Capitol building in Washington
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington on Aug. 15, 2019.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — For all of the focus on the day-by-day chaos of the last two years, it’s worth pointing out just how turbulent American politics have been over the last 20 years.

The Bush-vs.-Gore recount. 9/11. The Iraq war. The Great Recession. The rise of the Tea Party. The Trump presidency. The Democratic resistance.

And that turbulence has been reflected in our elections.

As political observer Bruce Mehlman notes, eight of the last 10 election cycles — from 2000 to 2018 — have resulted in a change of party control in the House, Senate or White House.

Compare that with 1980 to 1998, when the country saw just four elections cycles when control flipped.

Or 1960 to 1978, when power changed hands just in three cycles.

In fact, you have to go back to 1946 to 1954 (post-WWII, Cold War, McCarthyism) or the 1910s (WWI, Russian Revolution) to see as much change in control of Congress or the presidency, per NBC’s Ben Kamisar.

So due to our increasingly divided politics and the chaotic events over the last 20 years, American voters have been getting a lot of change.

The question we have: Are they constantly craving that change?

Or are they constantly expressing their dissatisfaction with the way things are — no matter who controls the White House and Congress?

The White House is getting nervous about the economy

Speaking of change, are we about to get some regarding the U.S. economy?

“Top White House advisers notified President Trump earlier this month that some internal forecasts showed that the economy could slow markedly over the next year, stopping short of a recession but complicating his path to reelection in 2020,” the Washington Post writes.

More: “Even as his aides warn of a business climate at risk of faltering, the president has been portraying the economy to the public as “phenomenal” and “incredible.” He has told aides that he thinks he can convince Americans that the economy is vibrant and unrattled through a public messaging campaign. But the internal and external warnings that the economy could slip have contributed to a muddled and often contradictory message.”

And: “‘Everyone is nervous — everyone,’ said a Republican with close ties to the White House and congressional GOP leaders. ‘It’s not a panic, but they are nervous.’”

Trump this morning tweeted an apparent response to this story: “The Economy is strong and good, whereas the rest of the world is not doing so well. Despite this the Fake News Media, together with their Partner, the Democrat Party, are working overtime to convince people that we are in, or will soon be going into, a Recession.”

2020 Vision: Meet me in San Francisco

Today, 13 Democratic presidential candidates – led by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris – deliver remarks this afternoon at the DNC summer meeting in San Francisco.

The other 10 who are speaking: Michael Bennet, Julian Castro, Joe Sestak, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

The notable no-shows: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke.

On the campaign trail today

In addition to those 2020ers at the DNC meeting, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg spend their days in New Hampshire… Beto O’Rourke visits shooting victims in El Paso with Gabby Giffords… And Bernie Sanders holds a town hall in San Francisco.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Pete Buttigieg stumped in Portland, Maine, and NBC’s Amanda Golden set the scene: “The audience was almost entirely white, but a decent mix of younger and older attendees — with the younger folks piling towards the front of the theatre’s stage while the older attendees sat in seats towards the back. There was a crowd of 1,132 people at the event, per the campaign.”

Tim Ryan did what has been mostly the unthinkable in the Democratic primary race — when he agreed with President Trump. NBC’s Julia Jester reports Ryan’s comments in Manchester, N.H.: “I admit that I liked how President Trump, when he started, be very clear when this started, that he was going to be very firm with China. China has been cheating. They do steal intellectual property. They do have industrial espionage.” Of course, though, Ryan’s praise came with a caveat, “He wants to make this a news story. He wants to look tough in the industrial Midwest like he's tough on China. And I will say that I like the firmness, but then you make a deal.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 64 percent

64 percent.

That’s the share of Democrats who say that it is a good idea for the House to conduct formal impeachment proceedings even if the Senate is unlikely to vote to remove Donald Trump from office, according to a Monmouth University poll.

And just 28 percent of Democrats say that it is very or somewhat likely that the Senate will actually vote to remove Trump from the White House.

The Lid: James and the Giant Impeach

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we reported on a new poll that asked about impeachment in creative ways.

ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss

Our team of campaign embeds in New Hampshire reports on Joe Biden’s campaign in the Granite State.

After an NBC News investigation into the Epoch Times, Facebook has banned its advertisements on the platform.

The New York Times has a deep dive on how Wayne LaPierre is sticking around — and getting even.

And Bernie Sanders’ campaign chief says he might not win New Hampshire.

Trump Agenda: Medal of Freedom

Trump has awarded the Medal of Freedom to NBA great Bob Cousy.

The Justice Department says it mistakenly emailed immigration court employees a link to a white nationalist website in a news briefing.

Sarah Sanders is heading to Fox News.

The president called into a Women for Trump campaign event.

2020: The shrinking presidential field

The 2020 field continues to shrink. Here’s why.

Pete Buttigieg is out with a new mental health plan.

Joe Biden is reminding supporters of the anniversary of being picked as Barack Obama’s running mate.

What’s next for Bill de Blasio?

The Washington Post asks if Bernie Sanders’ climate plan is too much for many voters.

Mike Pompeo isn’t exactly tamping down rumors of a Senate run.

Kamala Harris’ rivals are making hay of her reversals on health care.