The question is is the ball being moved in our direction or rather is the status quo being given a polish to make it look better to the average citizen?
For example, today's New York Times has a cover story titled "New Chairmen Shift Priorities For the Senate" in which it is mentioned that Patrick Leahy will replace Orrin Hatch as chair of the Judiciary Committee (which I consider a good thing on the whole b/c Hatch is such a loathsome character.) However, imagine you're an opponent of the death penalty - maybe you are - an abolitionist in other words. What would you think after reading this paragraph?
"... Mr. Leahy also has his sights set on pushing his bipartisan bill to overhaul of the death penalty system. The bill seeks to ensure that defendants get competent representation and that convicted felons can submit DNA testing to prove their innocence."
You mention Nader. What I heard ad nauseum during the election was that if Bush won, the sky would fall and society would go to hell in a handbasket. I had friends question my integrity when I argued in favor of Nader and building a radical movement. Well, after Jeffords's departure from the Republican Pary, it turns out that the sky isn't falling, that it's just going to be the same old shit. And I highly doubt that we'll hear a word of contrition from any of the highly visible Nader bashers. Perhaps someone has mentioned this already, but imagine that the economy really turns sour. Now the Republicans can point to a Democratic Senate to blame, something that will rouse right-wing populism. (A severe downturn plus a Democratic Senate might be equivalent to Bill Clinton, a growth medium for the populist right-wing) But, seeing how despondant the Republican leadership is, I bet it's not much of a consolation prize from their point of view.
As for as organizing goes, last night on cable TV I saw some lengthy footage and commentary from the Melbourne, Australia protests against the World Economic Forum. It was quite inspiring.
And from a recent article about the World Bank's decision not to hold meetings in Barcelona, Spain: "Anarchists, communists and other leaders of the planned protest had been preparing to confront 4,000 riot policemen who were being mobilised to prevent demonstrators disrupting the gathering of 200 academics and World Bank officials. The bank decided instead to hold its conference via an internet video-conference link."
One could argue that these sorts of protests are utopian and ineffectual, that one would better spend one's time electing members of social democratic parties (or in the Democratic Party's case, nominally social democratic) to parliament or the executive, but I think there's a good case to be made that you would be wrong. But maybe that's not what you're arguing.