I will address Ed & Steve:
So let's say Ron Paul got elected in 2012 in a third party called: The Tea Party. You're saying that he'd backtrack on things -- e.g., he wouldn't restrict or eliminate The Federal Reserve -- and that the supposedly-principled Tea Partiers would ... just go along with it???
I think Ron Paul getting elected - especially under a new third party - is a far-fetched notion (though he will get from me a vote, a donation and a sign on my lawn).
Even if he did get elected, he would not govern in vaccum. The two parties will still be a force to be reckoned with in 2012. It's not like he'll just be able to do whatever he wants - especially with ideas that are as radical to the establishment as some of his.
Far more realistic is an establishment conservative who pushes Tea Party buttons on the way to winning an election, and then in turn delivers a fairly normal Republican presidency.
I can see how your pessimism applies to the bipartisan establishment politics, but your defeatist attitude must lead you to conclude that any administration of any government has to be corrupt. Are you, praytell, an anarchist?
Just a pessimist, not an anarchist. I believe that any governmental regime that has ever existed is corrupt at some level, though not always irredemably corrupt.
Given that the Tea Party is a reaction against the far left that now governs,
Not entirely true, the movement was actually born out of the bailouts under Bush
and given that the goals common to the Tea Party people include small government, reduced taxes, reduced spending, and going back to free enterprise, I don't see how it could join with moderates or the left. That only leave the right with whom it shares positions.
The Conservatives have never followed a libertarian or been respectful towards a libertarian before - yet that's what we are seeing in the attitudes towards Ron Paul, John Stossel, and Glenn Beck.
Are you referring to the conservative masses or to public conservative intellectuals?
The right has never marched about with signs that have Ayn Rand's picture, or say something about Galt.
This is a minority of Conservatives - her atheism is very controversial still.
The right has never been anywhere near this explicit about Capitalism before.
I welcome the trend.
It isn't being coopted by the Conservative structure... The are trying, but the political pull goes both ways. The Republican party will have to make some concessions that will move the entire party to the right and they will have to adapt some Libertarian principles. They have always shifted back and forth between center-right and center, but never like they are going to have to this time.
The most interesting power struggle from my perspective is between the Conservative ideologues and the Libertarians. That is where Conservatives are learning new things about economics and morality. Hopefully the Libertarians won't compromise their positions.
The biggest problem with the Tea Party movement is the war, or more broadly, the views towards the role of American military power and how it is to be used (or not) around the world. There's a huge chasm here, and we're still not at a point in history where this issue can be swept under the rug to be dealt with at a much later date (such as things like drug laws, prostitution etc). You either believe that the US military should use its military to secure interests and defend allies abroad, or you believe that intervention spawns a never-ending cycle of conflicts that will bankrupt us and put us at risk of further attacks. There's not a lot of middle ground.
Since the issues on the homefront are largely economic, the Tea Party is relatively unified for now, but sooner or later a candidate will have to be chosen who is on one side of the war or the other, and that will fracture the movement. My guess is that the pro war side will win, and the traditional hawkish conversative platform will slowly creep back in.