Looking from over the Canadian border (from a country obsessed with the USA, as was Britain in its own way), this political phenomenon seems largely manufactured by the media and, as such, all too "real." If you know what I mean. They will surely get tons of attention and power with the election. They (meaning a very loose and contentious semi-coalition formed largely by a few venal right wingers with money and by the media) will surely attack each other from within and not last very long as a coalition, if one can even say they are.
That said, I couldn't agree more about the suggestion about how naive the "left" (whatever that means in a place like the US; I really don't know any more) has been routinely about how power works and what to do about non-progressive political ideologies and the forces that wield them.
There is no "left" left except a bunch of liberals like us who want to maintain our lifestyles and won't really take any risks. No one knows how to take risks any more--late capitalism has made any sense that there is a clear opposition or a clear way to oppose what goes on obscure.
The only people I can see really making a difference in a progressive sense are those who buck the system by going to places where people really need help. It seems to me there are more and more entrepreneurial young people willing to do this. Working within established systems these days seems a dead end.
I have to admire some of the people on the street attaching themselves to the "tea party" banner. They are right to be angry. They are at least taking action. They are, in my opinion, completely and totally wrong-headed about the actual politics embedded in the action--as usual they have bought the line that will defeat their very own interests (Reagan and Thatcher had that down). The so-called leaders I loathe in a way I can only remember feeling at the depths of Reagan's tenure when he blatantly lied about the "weapons" in Nicaragua and Bush's tenure when he had Colin Powell blatantly lie about the "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.
Well, the motley "coalition" that the media and big-money manipulators are calling the Tea Party seems to have gained momentary "power" in the Congress. Perhaps now the irony of people running for GOVERNMENT positions on a platform of being ANTI-GOVERNMENT will come to roost. They will see just how hard it is to get anything done. Here is where the weight of the dead hand of bureaucracy will turn in favor of progressives!
Otherwise, if there is a progressive coalition, it (we) must look to their strategies of firing people up. And please, people, can we stop blaming Obama? Is it his fault he didn't turn out to be the "second coming"?