Thursday. 10/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Poll positions

Listening to candidates and voters ahead of the US midterm elections, it was easy to forget the dire rhetoric on the airwaves about the looming end of American democracy. When I joined a Pennsylvania state House candidate, Anna Thomas, for a final afternoon of door-knocking, people focused on more tangible things: high prices and abortion, for example, but also personal problems. Thomas told me that she had connected more than one voter with a local lawyer. It felt like a return to a more traditional kind of politics: that of a pre-Trump, pre-social-media age, when community connections mattered.

Thomas didn’t win on Tuesday, though I’m sure that she’ll be back. But her party, the Democrats, swept the key races for the Senate and governor in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state. One reason for this is that character evidently still matters, along with a local touch. John Fetterman (pictured), the hoodie-wearing populist Democrat who has won a hard-fought Senate seat, made much of the fact that his Donald Trump-backed opponent, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, was from the neighbouring state of New Jersey.

What happened in Pennsylvania is symptomatic of another trend. US voters have a hunger for fresh faces and anti-establishment candidates but not necessarily brash celebrities who parachute into politics. Sports stars and news anchors – even a former weatherman – who entered races generally underperformed. We have been there and done that, and are ready for something new. Whether that comes from the left or right is less clear. The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, was re-elected by a landslide after presenting himself as a hard-right candidate without some of Trump’s personal character flaws. Also impressive was the re-election of Gavin Newsom, California’s left-leaning governor.

A final, heartening lesson of these elections is that reports of American democracy’s imminent death might have been greatly exaggerated. Election-denying candidates did less well than expected, while state and local officials deserve praise for running a smooth vote in a threatening, highly partisan atmosphere. With any luck, the madness of 2020 was an outlier rather than the new normal for US elections. We can only hope.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. Listen to Monocle 24 for our coverage of the US midterm results.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Southeast Asia

Scaling summits

Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen (pictured, centre left), will be welcoming both global and regional leaders as Southeast Asia rolls out the red carpet for nine days of meetings across several countries. First up is the biannual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which begins today in Phnom Penh – also the host of the East Asia Summit. Next week, Thailand picks up the baton with the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum; then the G20’s two-day summit opens in Bali on Tuesday. Though the region isn’t short of pressing issues, including state-sponsored violence in Myanmar, all eyes are on the US president, Joe Biden, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. Biden hasn’t met Xi in person since becoming president. A face-to-face meeting would provide an opportunity to ease tensions between their respective nations. With Xi skipping Cambodia and Biden missing Thailand, the stage is set for a detente in Indonesia. By the end of next week, the world should have a clearer view of what lies ahead.

Image: Alamy

Environment / Gabon

Right as rain

Given that more than 88 per cent of Gabon’s territory consists of tropical rainforest, climate change poses an existential threat to the Central African country. Thankfully, it has found a promising strategy for preserving this natural resource: investment. “We banned the export of logs and made timber transformation obligatory,” Lee White, Gabon’s minister of water, forests, the sea and environment tells The Monocle Minute at the UN’s Cop27 summit.

“In 10 years, we have multiplied our forest economy by four and have three times more jobs in the sector,” he says. “If we can increase the contribution of the forest to the economy, everyone will start to think of it as precious. People manage things that are valuable.” With one of the world’s lowest net deforestation rates – just 0.05 per cent a year – Gabon is already seeing the fruits of its approach.

Image: Myckenzee Kim

Business / USA

Follow the leaders

How do you provide effective leadership in these testing times for our cities, the media and the world of work? Yesterday, Monocle held its first US outing of The Chiefs conference at the Dallas Thompson hotel in Texas. As the country’s midterm election results rolled in, speakers came onstage to explain how they had navigated the past couple of years, which were rocked by coronavirus, people’s changing expectations about their jobs, cultural challenges and more.

Hanna Struever, the founder of Retail Portfolio Solutions, which is involved in major projects across the US, explained why luxury brands are looking for new outposts to invest in and how the crime rates of some cities are scaring money away. Celebrated retail and menswear designer Sid Mashburn talked about how he found success in the South, where office dress codes remain sharp. And Shawn Todd (pictured), founder of Todd Interests, set out a business strategy to revive the city’s downtown area. At a time when the world looks so polarised on our TV screens, the conference was a good reminder that when you get people in a room, common ground is found and ideas flourish. Dallas did us proud.

Image: Hosoo

Fashion / Japan

A particular set of skills

French luxury group LVMH has announced that it is extending its Métiers d’Art initiative with a new division in Japan. Launched in 2015, the programme already involves some of the world’s most skilful craftspeople from countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Australia. Japan’s addition to this list is hardly a surprise: companies such as Hosoo (pictured), a Nishijin textile specialist founded in Kyoto in 1688, have already been collaborating with the likes of Dior and Louis Vuitton.

The country is home to exceptional artisans and small makers who have kept their disciplines alive generation after generation, so international fashion houses will find plenty of ateliers whose expertise they can draw on. Japanese customers have long supported these niche workshops but sales in the home market alone are not always enough to keep them afloat. The arrival of Métiers d’Art will hopefully put the spotlight on the country’s unsung craft heroes and elevate the industry as a whole.

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Francis Kéré

We meet Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Francis Kéré to discuss his sustainable and local approach to design. Plus: we visit tropical modernism masterpiece Casa de Vidro in Brazil.

Monocle Films / Paris

Swimming in the Seine

As Paris embarks on a project to clean up the Seine ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games, we look at the process of readying the city’s river for its water-seeking dwellers, explore how it could affect the city and meet the guerilla urban swimmers who welcome the move.

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