Monday. 31/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Winner takes it all

The curtains have come down on convention season and the US presidential campaign is now officially underway. And in an election year without precedent, both parties have carved out what seemed elusive during the tumult of the past few months: a clear narrative. For Joe Biden’s Democrats, American democracy is on the ballot. For Donald Trump's Republicans, it's the idea of America itself.

The common ground between these opposing portraits of the nation is the sharp sense of calamity that will unfold if the other side wins. For Trump, there has been a realisation that slapping nicknames on “Sleepy” Joe Biden can only go so far; his convention speech last week marked a first attempt to put flesh on the bones of his caricature. That's likely how his strategy will unfold over the next few months: pushing as many buttons as he can in the hope that one will work, chipping away at Biden’s large (but slightly dipping) lead in national opinion polls.

All eyes now turn to the presidential debates, the first of which takes place on 29 September. The consequence of those will feel greater than usual: Biden will have nerves to quell among those who were troubled by his faltering debate performances at the beginning of the year (a departure from his commanding showing in the vice-presidential debates of 2008 and 2012). Trump has asserted that there is a “silent majority” of support for him. But that could be true for Biden too: a record number of Democrats registered to vote at the beginning of June, at the height of the demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd. It’s against the backdrop of the ongoing protests that the choice for voters has become clearest and that the stakes, as both campaigns will surely agree, couldn’t be higher.

Diplomacy / Canada & Lebanon

Road trip

Canadian foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne finds himself in quarantine after he ditched the video calls last week to make his first diplomatic trip abroad since the onset of coronavirus. Champagne touched down in Switzerland, Italy and the UK, although the key stop on his trip was Lebanon. There, in a meeting with the president, Michel Aoun, Champagne (pictured on left, with Aoun) pushed the Lebanese government to embrace economic and political reform. How effective might Canada’s visit be? “The messaging was spot-on and the content was great,” says Bessma Momani, a political scientist at the University of Waterloo. “But [will] Canada have the kind of leverage to push for [the] reforms needed? Not really. Our connection is largely via a diaspora community.” Canada has already committed CA$30m (€19m) to aid recovery efforts. The next step, according to Momani, is to help the Lebanese-Canadian diaspora find legitimate channels to transfer money into a country that has seen its banking system nearly collapse.

Society / Global

Shock waves

It’s been three months since the death of George Floyd. And as we watch the US descend into another round of tense protests and deep reflections following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, it’s tempting to say that nothing much has changed. But that would be to ignore the global impact of these events. “If something has changed, it’s the conversation,” French journalist and anti-racism activist Rokhaya Diallo tells Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk. “It means that now, whether it’s the politicians or the journalists, it’s not possible to ignore these issues any more.

It’s not possible to just speak about current issues in French society without speaking about minorities.” For Diallo, whether the Black Lives Matter movement has sometimes faced resistance or sparked a backlash is immaterial; the conversation alone has made a difference. “Even people who are annoyed by it have to debate; they have to confront their views,” she says. “I do think that we’ve experienced a turning point.”

Health / Singapore

Relative risk

The densely populated city-state of Singapore has been lauded for its early response to the coronavirus pandemic. While the total number of infected people has now topped 55,000, only 27 deaths from the disease have been recorded. Yet even as Singapore put the lessons learnt from the 2002 Sars epidemic into practice in suppressing the illness, it has been grappling with another outbreak. Already this year it has recorded more cases of dengue fever than ever before – indeed, the death toll for the mosquito-borne disease is approaching that of coronavirus. The global pandemic has, in part, been blamed for the outbreak (stagnant pools of water on temporarily abandoned building sites make merry breeding grounds for mozzies). But while Singaporean authorities are taking innovative steps to contain it, it comes as a timely reminder: coronavirus isn’t the world’s only public-health threat.

Design / UK

Change of pace

When it comes to the way that we build our cities, the pandemic hasn’t really changed anything; it’s just sped things up. At least that’s the view of the architect Norman Foster, who told Monocle 24’s *Monocle On Sunday* that recent moves to make urban environments greener and more cycling and pedestrian friendly will continue at pace. “It will seem as though it’s changed everything,” says the esteemed British architect. But “all of these trends, which were apparent before, have just been accelerated”. Foster says that this applies to everything from expanded outdoor trading areas to new bike lanes. The difference is that a three-year forecast for the way our cities might develop has been condensed into three months. Given the typically lengthy timeframes for any sort of infrastructure or city-making project, this can only be a good thing.

M24 / Indiecon 2020

The Stack

We preview Indiecon 2020 in Hamburg by speaking to event co-founder Urs Spindler as well as magazine editors and attendees Liz Gomis from Off To and Anna Broujean from Club Sandwich. Plus: we talk to Hannah Taylor from Delicate Rébellion.

Monocle Films / London

All around the table: deli dipping in London

Hanna Geller and Jeremy Coleman of Building Feasts take us on a tour around their favourite London food shops and pick up supplies on the way to put their effortless hosting skills into practice.

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