Derek - I can certainly relate to your experience but after watching Ron Paul's impact I am more encouraged than before, not less. And considering that the majority of his followers came from Internet, and were students that can only grow over time. (5-10% vs 1-2% for the LP?)
Because the net in general is putting establishment out to individual scrutiny, be it media, educators or politicians, the youth now have the opportunity to make philosophical decisions during their formative years. Anyone over the age of 25 or so seems to have difficulty dramatically modifying their reality, even in the face of factual data (based on my observations). Of course I don't align myself with the 'mother' side of politics (per the mother/father theory by the Berkeley prof) so I guess I'm not bitter and looking for guns and religion for solace
Also, on the topic of oil prices - I am hearing the refinery utilization is hitting a seasonal low right at the time demand usually is ramping up. With that in mind, rises in gas prices are purely a factor of inflation rather than the more obscure artificial demand triggered by excessive liquidity. So it would seem less of an argument to blame SUV's and the Chinese for high gas prices....