Friday. 3/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Primary objectives

Roll up, roll up: the circus is coming to a state near you. We’re approaching the business end of the US election cycle – that protracted, drama-filled and cash-heavy roadshow with its infinite lurches. Well, sort of. Although there’s some way to go until Americans finally head to the polls on 3 November, fear not: we can enjoy the bun fight – through a series of caucuses and primary votes – over who will become the next Democratic candidate. As ever, the contenders will be looking to score big in Iowa at the start of February, where campaign managers insist that momentum is the name of the game going into New Hampshire and beyond.

Here’s what we’ve learnt so far: pundits are fearful of making predictions after the surprises of 2016; Joe Biden (pictured) is somehow managing to stay at the top of the pack despite a series of blunders and gaffes; fêted candidates (Kamala Harris, anyone?) can suddenly falter and nosedive; and the clutch of Democratic potentials is looking a lot whiter than it once was, despite the party’s claims that it would counter Donald Trump’s nativism through diversity.

So, what’s to come? Expect plenty of screaming matches on cable TV and be prepared to be thoroughly perplexed about the role of Democratic “superdelegates” at the National Convention in Wisconsin in July. And get ready for the histrionics of Super Tuesday on 3 March, when 15 states and jurisdictions hold their primaries, including – for the first time on that day – California.

The big unknown, of course, is to be found in whether the impeachment trial in the Senate will quash Trump’s chances of re-election or simply play into his oft-touted “witch-hunt” discourse. Make a prediction? We couldn’t possibly.

Politics / Canada

An uncertain term

If Canada’s general election last October challenged political loyalties, this year will provide early clues as to how firmly the political landscape in Canada has changed. Justin Trudeau’s minority government will need the support of other parties to get its election pledges through parliament. His hope is that a conciliatory strategy can stem the decline in support for his brand of centre-left politics – a political identity that is being tested in other western democracies too. But conservatism in Canada also faces a reckoning: after failing to unseat an unpopular prime minister, the Conservative party will be choosing a new leader. He or she won’t have an easy task: right-wing populism has taken hold in places such as Ontario and Alberta, leaving the notion of conservatism itself rather fractured. Holding the country together will be no mean feat – for conservatives and liberals alike.

Politics / Brazil

Test of faith

It’s been a turbulent year in a number of Latin American countries – none more so than Brazil. After a rather chaotic first year in power, president Jair Bolsonaro retains the support of only a third of the Brazilian electorate. A big test will come in the form of local elections in October. The country will vote for mayors and councillors in every one of its 5,570 municipalities and Bolsonaro might struggle to get his favoured candidates over the line. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, current mayor Marcelo Crivella (an ally of the president’s) is fast losing support, even among his traditional base of evangelical and conservative voters. Instead, expect a close race between centrist former mayor Eduardo Paes and leftist candidate Marcelo Freixo. The elections promise to continue Brazil’s political fragmentation – its Congress is made up of representatives from more than 30 parties. The increasingly volatile electorate is good reason for Bolsonaro and more traditional parties to worry.

Urbanism / Los Angeles

Bright ideas

The new year is going to be an unusually busy one for Los Angeles’s Bureau of Street Lighting. Together with the mayor’s office, the department has launched a competition to find a new standard streetlight design for the city. But this is no ordinary competition, says Christopher Hawthorne, the city’s chief design officer. “We’re asking all the entrants to also think about the daytime role of the lamppost, so that it includes some kind of hardware to carry a shade sail,” he tells Monocle. The quest to find a better streetlight is part of Los Angeles’s ongoing commitment to tackle the climate crisis – contestants must use sustainable materials in their designs and consider the impact on the city’s environment and wildlife. “We don’t really have the luxury of having elements that only do one thing and just illuminate the road,” says Hawthorne. The winning design will be unveiled in June 2020.

Culture / New York

Back in the picture

New York is undergoing a small-cinema revival. The closure of the area’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in 2018 left a gap in the Upper West Side’s cultural scene. But now dedicated enthusiasts have opened a nonprofit cinema, the New Plaza, in its place. What they lack in funds they make up for in timing: a number of innovative picture houses have launched in the city in recent years. Elsewhere, The Metrograph (pictured), with its eclectic screenings and five-star food, has proved a hit on the Lower East Side, while Netflix captured the spotlight with its takeover of the classic single-screen Paris Theater, near Saks Fifth Avenue. Such places rarely offer the highest return on investment but planners and developers should consider the value that cultural spaces bring to city dwellers.

M24 / The Urbanist

The best of Tall Stories 2019

We take a whirlwind trip around the world before returning home to London in our look back at the best of the Tall Stories series in 2019.

Monocle Films / Canada

Why start-ups thrive in Canada

To celebrate this year's soft power survey winner, we visit an emerging roster of budding businesses in Montreal. Canada's innovations minister Navdeep Bains reveals how the country is capitalising on the US's restrictive visa policies.

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