Nov 18, 2022 - Podcasts

Nancy Pelosi’s legacy

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday announced she will be stepping away from her two-decade leadership tenure. She will continue to serve as a representative of California’s 12th district. We look back at her legacy and at what's ahead for Democrats.

  • Plus, flooding causes a food crisis for millions of Africans.
  • And, American credit card debt soars.

Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev, Ayurella Horn-Muller and Hope King

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Robin Linn, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Amy Pedulla, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, November 18.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: flooding causes a food crisis for millions of Africans. Plus, American credit card debt soars.

But first, Nancy Pelosi’s legacy – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: And with great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me, the hours come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.

NIALA: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from the floor of Congress yesterday and her announcement she'll be stepping away from leadership. Here to break down what that means for the future of the Democratic Party is Axios' managing editor for politics, Margaret Talev. Hi Margaret.

MARGARET TALEV: Well hi Niala.

NIALA: Before we get to the future, Margaret, I feel like we have to acknowledge the historic nature of Nancy Pelosi's time as speaker. What stands out to you from her two decades leading the Democrats in the house, and of course she's held office since 1987, which she's going to continue to do. What do you think her leadership legacy will be?

MARGARET: Nancy Pelosi will obviously be remembered for her distinction as the first female speaker of the House of Representatives. But legislatively, she's also likely to be remembered for playing a crucial role in the passage of what became known as Obamacare: broadening of protections, expansion of healthcare rights and coverage for Americans. And the other thing I think she'll be remembered for at least taking a snapshot in time now as we are living through this moment in history, is the role she played as a check against Donald Trump. And if a picture says a thousand words, everybody knows what picture I'm about to tell you about that picture of Nancy Pelosi in the royal blue dress in a room full of men at the White House standing up and wagging her finger at President Trump.

NIALA: Can you tell us who she's paved the way for now?

MARGARET: Although she's stepping away, she's not really relinquishing the reins. She wanted to engineer her successors this wasn't just about her getting out of the way for someone else who was 82 or 83 or you know, 81, but her trying to usher in a generation of leaders now in their fifties and their forties, Gen X, uh, Gen Y, millennials. Now there are really three younger Democrats that are on the rise that she is paving the way for. There is Hakeem Jeffries from New York. He's an African American congressman. There's Katherine Clark from Massachusetts. And there's Pete Aguilar, from California. Of course the Democratic Party is now gonna be entering the minority beginning in January after Republicans sort of squeaky win back of the majority in the midterms. So these new leaders, if in fact they do ascend, would ascend. In the minority, but it would pave the way for the first African American speaker of the house if Democrats were to regain the majority. And that combination of a Black man, a white woman, a Hispanic man, would create that sort of diverse team that Nancy Pelosi wants the democratic party to put forward for the future.

NIALA: What does this mean for the future of the democratic party overall?

MARGARET: So it's one thing to say, what does it mean for the future of the democratic party? I think there's a bigger question here, which is, what does it mean for the future of American politics? At the top of every layer of American leadership, with the exception of Kevin McCarthy in the House Republican structure, but Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, these are people around the age of 80 now leading all aspects of American legislative and executive power. And for years, you see in the polls, Americans want the next generation to rise up in leadership. The people in charge are getting too old and they're getting older, so the question is, will this be the beginning of a bigger movement that's been bubbling beneath the surface for some time? I think we don't know the answer to that, but I'm certainly interested in the answer to that.

NIALA: Margaret to Axios’ managing editor for politics. Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks Niala.

In a moment, floods, hunger, and COP27.

Flooding causes a food crisis for millions of Africans

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios. Today, I'm Niala Boodhoo. Scientists have long understood the link between climate change and severe flooding, but now they're also understanding the link between those natural disasters and hunger. A recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that flood events in many African countries have affected food security for more than five and a half million people.

Axios Climate Justice Reporter Ayurella Horn-Muller has more. Hi, Ayurella

AYURELLA: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

NIALA: Can you explain how the study understands the link between flooding and particularly food security?

AYURELLA: So this study looked at flood events experienced in more than a dozen African nations between 2009 and 2020. And it looked at how the flood events impacted food security for existing food insecure populations. Across West, East and South Africa, parts of South Sudan, Malawi, and Nigeria. I think what would help most is, is first just defining food security. So we define that roughly by three pillars. The first is availability, or having enough food, the second is access. And then the third piece is utilization. And that aligns with things like clean water access, fuel, to cook food, storage, food reserves, all of these other things that we tend to take for granted. So my sources tell me that they're definitely concerned about the impacts of climate change on the availability of food or crop production in these regions. Rising temperatures, extreme precipitation events, and then this just very high variability of water resources. That all comes into play here as well.

NIALA: And, we're seeing this play out in real time, right?

AYURELLA: We know that climate change is contributing to an increase in heavier rainfall and has been linked to more intense flood events. We just recently saw that outside of Africa with the climate-fueled catastrophic levels of flooding in Pakistan. We also know that food insecurity is a critical growing issue for many developing nations across the African continent. Millions of people are hungry in hotspots in countries in the Horn of Africa, which is facing its worst famine in decades. And, at least 40 million people in West and Central Africa were considered food insecure before torrential flooding hit the region last month, which submerged farmland and destroyed harvests.

NIALA: How much of this was a discussion at COP 27 this week?

AYURELLA: This is a main talking point at COP 27. This is a very divisive talking point where developing nations have been calling for loss in damaged financing from the wealthier countries that are responsible for the bulk of global emissions that are driving these damaging climate impacts. I mentioned Pakistan. It's a pivotal example. The devastating flooding there that started in July. It caused an estimated $40 billion in damage. And now we're midway through the second and final week of COP. Negotiations are underway. My sources on the ground are telling me that the likely outcome of the summit will be very disappointing for many of the developing highly vulnerable countries that had high hopes for the summit. And in fact, developed countries are being accused of trying to stall progress on climate damage financing, which my colleague Andrew Freedman reported on, on Wednesday. And highly vulnerable countries came into this summit with high hopes on loss and damage. but it's just not looking like developed countries or meeting them where they're at.

NIALA: Ayurella Horn-Muller writes about climate and energy for Axios. Thanks for joining us.

AYURELLA: Thank you.

American credit card debt soars

Niala: Before we go, credit card balances are up. In fact, Fed researchers are reporting the biggest spike in credit card debt in more than 20 years. So, why so much spending? Axios’ Hope King has some theories.

HOPE KING: Hi, Niala and Axios Today listeners, Credit card balances grew by 15% in the third quarter compared to last year. That's the biggest annual jump in over 20 years, So why does all of this matter? Well, it shows just how much of an impact inflation has had on our economy, on top of all the pent up demand that began to be unleashed by consumers this year.

The bigger picture that I see with all of this spending now going toward services, going toward events, we're seeing more of these patterns going back to pre-pandemic levels and spending on credit cards is now yet another sign that we're getting there.

Niala: Axios’s Hope King.

That’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn, Amy Pedulla, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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