"The only way to win is not to play" - WOPR
What do you think the majority of Republican legislators would do if they actually believed that if they did not vote to support a single-payer health care system, they would lose their office in the next election?
I think I know what would happen - a majority of republicans would vote for a single-payer health care plan, and a majority of democrats would vote to halt illegal immigration.
Not that I necessarily agree with either of these positions, but there is an important point I hope I am making. We do not really need to worry whether democrats or republicans are elected to office. On both sides of the aisle, these people want to remain in office - they've invested a great deal of money to get there and don't want to see that investment go to waste. This is a fact that can be leveraged to advantage the "small people" - but only if we small people come together with a purpose, we cannot do it divided. Divided, we vote in opposing directions and cancel each others efforts.
I suspect that most elections are decided by a margin of less than 10 percent. This means that it would take perhaps 15% of "likely voters", a solid and sustained coalition of the grassroots-left and grassroots-right, to work together and defeat the left/right tug-of-war that helps to maintain the comfortable status quo for the wealthy elite. This coalition need not be a formal party per-se (although I have advocated calling it the "Green TEA" party), nor need to field its own candidates, necessarily. Therefore, that "great hurdle" of breaching the two-party system with some third-party candidates is no longer an obstacle. This struggle is not for candidates, but for issues, measures, specific elements of legislation.
Example 1: REPEAL CORPORATE LIABILITY CAPS
The federal government offers liability caps to the oil and nuclear industries, so that they (their controlling stockholders) will be willing to "invest" in drilling and powerplants, and not have their investments put at undue risk in the event of rare but catastrophic disasters. But what does this really mean? It means that in the event of a massive accident, the government will step in once the cap is reached to cover ALL remaining costs. And "the government" means "the taxpayers" (and the taxpayer's children, grandchildren, ...). Not only is this an unfair burden upon the small people to the benefit of the corporate stockholders, it also unfairly skews the market - allowing oil, gas, and nuclear energy to "appear" cheaper than they really are. If the right (ok, the grassroots right) really believe in free market capitalism - fair competition in price and product leading to the best deals for the consumer, and are against "government interference" in the market, then they should support the repeal of these artificial liability caps. They are, after all, a violation of the free market. Likewise, the "progressive left" and the greens should favor a repeal of these caps, as they unduly favor corporate interests over people and unfairly suppress the marketability of alternative forms of energy that would place more control of power in the hands of individuals and small communities. Such a repeal is a definite win-win for the grassroots on both the left and the right.
Example 2: REPEAL SENATE SECRET HOLDS
The very idea that a senator can anonymously place a secret hold on legislation, so it cannot come to the floor for debate or vote, has to be one of the most anti-democratic, anti-American practices in government. Our Constitution demands government "By The People", and that is impossible when the people cannot tell whether or not their representatives are supporting the will of those who elected them. Surely, we commoners on the left and on the right can agree on this, or we have no faith at all in our Constitution.
Can we be creative, Oh Ye Progressives, Greens and TEA, and find other positions that the establishment would desire we not discover to be in our common interest?
Once a handful of common measures were agreed upon, this coalition would lobby legislators into introducing the measures and shepherding them through committees and to the floor. As a coalition, we diligently track the movement of these bills, and act TOGETHER to defeat any legislators that are deemed to be obstructing the measures, or who vote against them when the come to the floor for a vote. This means, if a democratic legislator acts against the measure, the entire coalition acts to defeat them in the following election, even if that means voting in a republican. Likewise if it is a republican who is obstructing the measure, the coalition must be willing to defeat them with a democrat, if that is the strongest candidate running against them.
The following charts are my way of conveying the situation as promoted by the "status quo", in contrast to the reality they would prefer we not discover.