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Nancy Pelosi: The comeback of America’s powerful woman

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When Nancy Pelosi is sworn in as Speaker of the House on Thursday, she becomes not just the third most powerful US politician but also the leader of the Trump opposition.

Both loved and loathed, her comeback story is an extraordinary tale of political survival.

After eight years in the political wilderness, Nancy Pelosi is back on top.

In 2007, the California Democrat made history as the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives, but it was short-lived.

This time, she’s at the helm of a resurgent party with responsibility for initiating new laws through the lower chamber of Congress, not to mention guiding a slew of new investigations into the president.

And she’s done so despite being written off multiple times and labelled a pedestrian public speaker prone to the occasional gaffe, having high disapproval ratings and becoming a lightning rod for Republicans.

Tying her name to embattled Democratic candidates had been an effective weapon for conservatives in the past but in the 2018 mid-term elections, it lost its punch.

In Virginia, for example, Republican incumbent David Brat mentioned Nancy Pelosi and her “liberal agenda” 21 times in an hour and a half at a debate.

His Democratic opponent, Abigail Spanberger, finally shot back: “I question again whether Congressman Brat knows which Democrat in fact he’s running against… My name is Abigail Spanberger.”

She went on to win the district, one of 40 Democrats who captured Republican-held seats, giving the Democrats their largest surge in the House since the 1970s Watergate scandal.

Now, with her return to the speaker’s chair, Pelosi again becomes the most powerful woman in US politics.

It caps a remarkable journey for someone who grew up the youngest child in a family steeped in East Coast big-city politics, made a political name for herself in the most liberal corners of California and has dominated Democratic politics for nearly a decade and a half.

“People have gone wrong by under-estimating her for years,” says journalist Elaine Povich, who wrote a 2008 biography about Pelosi. “Never bet against her. She’s consistently the hardest worker, the best organized and great vote counter.”

These skills are going to be sorely tested in the days ahead, as the incoming speaker will have to balance the competing priorities of her Democratic caucus while facing incoming flames from the political Vesuvius that is Donald Trump.

The public had a taste of such confrontations in December, when the two argued in the Oval Office about border wall funding. She emerged from that duel with Democrats singing her praises but for many on the left such fireworks should only be the beginning.

They will be clamouring for aggressive oversight of the president while others want a legislative record that Democrats can run on.

It’s a recipe for intra-party conflict and indicates the treacherous path ahead for her to navigate.

Although Republicans have typically painted Pelosi as a “San Francisco liberal” enamoured with big government and far to the left on social issues, her roots are from a more practical style of politics on the other side of the continent.

She grew up in a political family, one of seven children in the gritty East Coast city of Baltimore, Maryland, where her father – Thomas “Big Tommy” D’Alesandro Jr – was mayor. She was the youngest and the only girl.

To be a politician in mid-century Baltimore meant succeeding at old-school Democratic machine politics. Keeping track of favours received and favours given. Knowing whom to help and whom to hurt – and how to do both. Pelosi managed her family’s political accounts, including answering the eight phone lines that connected to the house.

She went to college in nearby Washington where she met and eventually married financier Paul Pelosi. They first moved to Manhattan, and then San Francisco, where Pelosi started as a housewife. She had five children – four daughters and a son – in the space of six years.

In 1976 she became involved in politics, using her old family connections to help then-California Governor Jerry Brown, running for president, win the Maryland primary.

She then rose through the state’s Democratic Party ranks, eventually becoming its chair. In 1988 – at the urging of the outgoing Democrat – she ran for a seat in Congress and won.

In the House she worked her way up again. Because she represented a portion of the city with a large gay community, she made increasing Aids research funding a priority. She fought a multi-year bureaucratic battle to have a shuttered military base in San Francisco turned into a national park.

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In 2001, she ran against Maryland’s Steny Hoyer – whom she once interned with back in Washington – for House minority whip, vote-counter and second in command of the caucus, and won a narrow victory. The next year she moved up to minority leader after Dick Gephardt of Missouri resigned.

She was one of the highest-profile, most outspoken opponents of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and in 2005 successfully helped block President George W Bush’s call for partial privatisation of the government-run Social Security retirement programme.

When the Democrats won the majority in 2006 for the first time in 12 years, her legislative acumen had been established and her stand on the war – at least in the minds of Democrats – was vindicated. She became the clear choice for Speaker of the House and was elected by her party in a unanimous vote.

In January 2007 the Californian made history as the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives.

But four years later, Democrats lost control of the lower chamber of Congress.

Despite the setback Pelosi kept her head above the turbulent political waters, riding out a series of electoral defeats and beating back challenges within her own ranks, to take the gavel once more.

Speaker of the House is the one congressional job detailed in the US Constitution. It is second in line for the presidency, behind only the vice-president, although such an ascent would require an unlikely set of circumstances in which both offices were vacated.

Its massive office, in the Capitol rotunda, reflects the prestige of the job, with its own balcony looking out toward the Washington Monument.

Unlike the Senate, the majority party in the House – led by the speaker – has virtually unfettered control over the legislative process.

The speaker and her deputies and committee chairs determine what bills are considered and voted on. They set the agenda and decide the rules governing debate. If a speaker can keep her majority in line – and Republicans over the last two years showed that is far from a certainty – the legislative process in the House can purr like a well-tuned machine.

That was the case the last time Pelosi’s was speaker.

From 2009 to 2011, when Democrats had unified control of Congress and the White House, her chamber enacted an $840bn stimulus package in the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse. She passed pro-union and cap-and-trade climate legislation (which never made it past the Senate and into law) and financial reform and a bill prohibiting gender discrimination in pay (which did).

She also pushed hard to get the Affordable Care Act, which became the defining battle of the Barack Obama presidency, through the House and on to the president’s desk.

Trump wasn’t all that wrong to suggest that Pelosi was feeling some heat from members of her own party.

During the mid-term elections, more than 60 Democratic candidates campaigned on a pledge to oppose her speakership bid. After their mid-term success, a group of 16 incoming House Democrats issued a letter calling on new party leadership. They suggested it was time for the 78-year-old Pelosi to hand over power to a new generation.

In the ensuing weeks, however, the California Democrat went about slowly dismantling the rebellion. She peeled off some of the letter’s signatories and sympathisers with promises of plum committee seats or prioritising their issues.

Then came her White House showdown, which set Democrats buzzing and launched a thousand complimentary memes on social media.

A day later Pelosi all but secured her speakership with her biggest concession – agreeing to eight-year term limits for members of the House Democratic leadership, applied retroactively.

“Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus,” she said.

Pelosi is a woman in a party that has swept to power in large part due to the engagement and support of women. Fifty-eight percent of those who voted for Democrats in the House were women. There will be 89 women out of the 235 Democratic members of Congress.

That’s a far cry from when Pelosi first entered Congress in 1988, when she was one of only 24 women in the entire 435-seat chamber.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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