Today the citizens of the USA go to the polls for the midterms. I'm following the story with a mild interest as given their position as a world power their politics does have an impact on the rest of us. The media in the UK are reporting them as a referendum on Obama's first year and a bit in office which seems a little harsh. However American friends often remind me the whole federal system is designed to be unstable, it's very rare a president has control of both houses. Even when operating with majorities senators and congressmen cannot be relied on to vote with the party line as they all have an eye to their electoral fortunes back home. Parliamentary politics it ain't.
It will be interesting to see if the country takes a collective jump to the right or if the moderate republicans decide the more colourful Tea Party candidates are too much of a risk. There is a worry if the Tea Party wing does well it will embolden them to push for a populist candidate for the 2012 presidential race where they could do real international damage.
However another aspect of the US electoral system is the local state referendums that will be run. The two ones I'm interested in are both in California. The vote for Proposition 19 on legalising marijuana might start a process of revisiting the War on Drugs that has been rumbling on since the 70s. The other interesting one will be if anti-climate Proposition 23 is defeated, something being challenged by the Republican Govenator.
Of course as interesting as the movements in California are it's still fairly liberal compared to the rest of the USA. And not being a citizen I have no voice in the election so all I can do is be relegated to the role of interested observer.