It's clear to people with their ear on the ground that the current political climate is severely broken to say the least. However, this is the society we live in (it's not that different in Canada). As the slide down has happened gradually over generations, the slide up will probably take just as long, and that FIRST requires halting the momentum down. It's a long and hard road and projects like Vote Smart are a great start.
So now in this election season is it better to abstain or protest vote than to vote for the "lesser of evils"? If everybody abstained/protest voted then ya that'd be the way to go - and if you look at voter apathy that seems to be what most people are doing! But most people don't, and I understand the fallacy of this circular argument... but practically speaking I do think you can enact more change from the inside than out.
And I'll be the first to admit my naivite and lack of real world experience in these matters. I'm what you call a straight up armchair activist. Though I would put ProductWiki as a grass roots movement to inform consumers about making smart purchasing decisions. Which I find to be important :)