Friday. 21/2/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

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Wednesday night’s televised debate in Las Vegas between the Democratic candidates vying for the US presidency was their angriest encounter yet. Pete Buttigieg went for Bernie Sanders; Bernie went for Pete; Amy Klobuchar went for Elizabeth Warren; Warren went for Joe Biden; and everyone went for Michael Bloomberg, who, it’s fair to say, buckled beneath the bombardment. Given that the field for the Democratic presidential nomination is still so crowded, and the opinion polls so fluid, it’s unsurprising that the candidates’ passions ran so high.

There were, it’s worth noting, moments of civility amid the fray. Warren and Klobuchar were among those to note that, despite policy disagreements, they would vote for any Democrat running against Donald Trump in November’s election. And Buttigieg stated that he has long respected his social-democrat rival: “I was into Bernie before it was cool,” he said to the debate’s Las Vegas audience.

This is a difficult moment for the Democrats. How do you chase a presidential nomination without shredding the standing of the party as a whole in the process? Despite the anger at play, it’s worth remembering that the Democrats are in a strong position. The candidates are credible, qualified and diverse. Highlighting their diverse views served the Democrats well in the 2018 congressional elections and should also be embraced moving forwards. Going negative will only serve Trump well in his re-election bid; negative primary campaigns tend to drive down voter turnout among Democrats (as Hillary Clinton found out in 2016). Whether the candidates who are currently left in the race have successfully balanced the need to challenge their rivals with that of elevating the party in the minds of the electorate will be tested by voters in Nevada tomorrow. Keep an eye on the turnout: it could be more important than who comes out on top.

Elections / Iran

Spoiled ballot

Iranians will head to the polls today to vote in the 11th parliamentary elections since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. But there is a sense of inevitability to the result following an intervention by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Emboldened by increasing support for hardliners in response to escalating tensions with the US, the Supreme Leader’s Guardian Council has banned dozens of reformist candidates from standing, including about 80 current MPs. “It’s tempting to look at this edict in the context of the US assassination of the Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani,” Sir William Patey, a former senior ambassador in the Middle East, tells the Monocle Minute. “But Iran’s leaders have been skewing elections in their favour since the birth of the Republic.” It is safe to assume that this contest – if we can call it that – will deliver a landslide victory for the country’s fundamentalists on a low turnout.

Urbanism / Dallas

A bit of a wobble

Dallas has been ranked the worst city for cycling in the US – twice. After the first time, in 2011, the Texan metropolis promised to build more than 2,000km of new bike lanes to put it on the map for the right reasons. But looking ahead to next year, when the decade-long project comes to an end, the Dallas Observer notes that just 11 per cent of the planned route has been constructed. So where did it all go wrong? City planners are applying a positive spin on it, saying that slow and steady is the correct approach and that rider safety is paramount. Another reason for the slow progress is the overly ambitious masterplan and a reluctance to fund it (another Texas city, Austin, built a quarter of its network in three years by issuing transportation bonds). If Dallas wants to shift gear it needs to take its hand off the brake and start stumping up the cash.

F&B / Austria

Case studies

Austria might be better known for beer but its wine industry is having a corking time after good recent harvests and growing popularity abroad. Thanks in part to a taste for fresher, lower-alcohol wines and the star status of the grüner veltliner grape, Austrian cuvées are cropping up on wine lists the world over. Wine-making here has had its ups and downs though. Back in 1985 a scandal crept across the nation’s vineyards when it emerged that certain unscrupulous vintners were adding chemicals found in antifreeze to wine (to sweeten it, apparently). But the steps taken for the industry to bounce back give it an unexpected advantage in the provenance-preoccupied market of today: it has some of the most stringent regulations and is well-suited to smaller-scale organic production. The March issue of Monocle is dedicated to the Alpine nation and – tough gig – we profile five wine-makers from across the country in Lower Austria, Styria, Burgenland and Vienna. Bottoms up.

Arts / Philippines

Broad canvas

While the cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong due to the coronavirus outbreak dealt a blow to contemporary art fans in Asia, it’s not the only show in the region. Today is the first day of Art Fair Philippines, which takes place in a multistorey carpark in Manila’s upscale Makati. The fair continues to grow despite increased competition (Alt Philippines, a rival event organised by 10 breakaway galleries, took place in the capital last weekend) and the eighth edition of this annual event will be its biggest yet. “We have 61 galleries this year, which is up from 54 last year,” says co-founder Trickie Lopa. There’s also a new film section and increased international participation from Japan, Taiwan and across Southeast Asia. “Art Porters Gallery from Singapore has a solo exhibition by photographer Emmanuel Santos,” says Lopa. “He’s not lived in Manila for a long time so I’m excited to see what they show.”

M24 / Monocle on Design

Extra: Go with the flow

The banks of Oslo’s Akerselva River are experiencing a wave of change. Landscape architect and planner Ola Bettum explains how to redesign a riverside.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: March issue, 2020

Why Austria? This landlocked central European nation is quietly offering global lessons in everything from diplomacy to design – not to mention dining. Our dedicated special takes an in-depth look into its Alpine attractions, entrepreneurial clout and hands-on craft culture. Our journalists reveal how the Habsburg’s changed history and how the nation is setting an example for the rest of the world.

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