I have mentioned in the comments in a few sites the split between small government Conservatives/libertarians and the religious right which are the primary factions that make up the Republican Party.
Historically, when the Democrats held most of the reigns of Federal Power, the two factions were very amicable. The religious right and the small government people both wanted to stop the Democrats from enacting most of their agenda. However, for the their reasons for opposition were very different. The Religious Right has their own agenda that they would like to see enacted while the advocates of smaller government were more or less against any agenda being put into place regardless of its purpose.
This schism is become much more visible now that the Republican Party is firmly in control of the Presidency and the Legislature. If the Democratic Party continues to fail electorally this split will become more and more pronounced.
The right side of the blogosphere lately has been fairly busy with this schism, which has been highlighted by the Schiavo affair. Bill Quick has put up a list of his reasons for disagreeing with the Bush Administration, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't, and put out a call for suggestions on how to wrest control of the Republican Party from the social conservatives.
I think that this is an interesting idea, and certainly worth exploring. First though, a complete understanding of the nature of the problem is important.
The Republican Party is not dominated completely by either of these factions. Currently there is a good deal of give and take. George Bush epitomizes this by being, I think anyway, pretty clearly in the center of his party on most issues. He is of course a politician, and that means on issues he doesn't feel strongly about he panders when it is expedient, and while I don't entirely like that I am enough of a realist to accept that we will never reach a utopia that consists of politicians who don't pander. The Republican Party today though does still have a strong small government/libertarian tilt. I would say that it is more social conservative than libertarian, but it is something like 70/30 in terms of policies. I consider the Democratic Party for the most part to be fundamentally opposed to small government concepts so trying to change it's ideology seems futile (although convincing individual Democrats remains feasible. That means a libertarian minded individual should be hesitant to abandon the Republican Party altogether, especially as our governmental system will naturally coalesce to a two party system.
So the proper goal of someone who shares my philosophy should be to alter the ideological focus to be more libertarian minded. Understanding the challenges this poses is critical to success in this endeavor.
The first challenge is that individuals who desire less intrusive government are a minority of the population. In truth, considering our numbers, we are probably fortunate to have the influence we do. This fact prescribes some tactics, such as demeaning ones opposition or acting as though one's preferred positions had some sort of electoral mandate.
The second challenge is that it is always easier to organize and inspire people to be for something specific than against doing something in general. While I prefer a small government it is difficult to be as passionate about that principle, especially when it relates to a specific issue, than someone who desperately wants something done. Specific libertarian issues can be an exception to this (gun control is notable) but that activism doesn't tend to crossover to a broader libertarian activism. Many people who are strongly against Gun Control don't place any importance on keeping the government out of medical entitlements as an example. Additionally, small government advocates are quite naturally individualist in nature, making building an organization even more difficult. This seems to make building an activist core, a counterpart to MoveOn.org for example, a difficult proposition.
This second factor largely explains why the religious right has more influence on the Republican Party than small government advocates, although I estimate the population of the two groups is roughly equal.
Small government advocates do however have certain strengths to draw on. The most significant is a body of philosophy dating back hundreds of years. Conservative and Libertarian think tanks have continued to expand upon this philosophy. This factor is largely responsible for the numbers and influence this ideology can claim.
Given these realities, it seems the best way to build greater consensus for a small government is to continue with what works. It seems to me that well developed arguments aimed at convincing people who feel differently, one at a time if necessary, will be more effective than any sort of flashy new organization or loud calls for creating a new party. The number of libertarian minded bloggers seems to be a natural platform for this sort of campaign, indeed that is all ready largely happening but I think a few specific things should be kept in mind.
First, it is important to understand where those who disagree are coming from. For the most part, social conservatives and liberals have desirable goals in mind. Many of the desires of both groups would indeed be nice to have. The trouble is that the costs (in a variety of senses) are too prohibitive or the means inevitably corrupt a desired end. Explaining this requires time and patience not castigation and anger. A good deal of the libertarian thinking over the past several decades has focused on opposing the liberal agenda, to good success. A similar tactic aimed at convincing the religious right would likely be successful as well.
Second, we need to always be sure to deal with where we are, not where we wish we were or what the situation would be in an ideal sense. Immigration is a good example of this. No matter what would be desirable, there is simply no way that 10 million illegals are going to be deported. Any solution with that as a component is useful only as fantasy. Philosophically exploring the ideal can be useful, but demanding it instantly as policy is generally not useful. Once again, patient slow progress is the key.
Lastly, it is important to remember not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is especially true when dealing with intra-party politics. A scorched earth all-or-nothing attitude will only result in hardening opinions and weakening ones overall leverage. The prescription drug entitlement may be an example of this. For years there has been broad agreement and powerful lobbying for Federal support for prescription drug support. Given that reality, the Bush plan was probably as good as it was going to be from a libertarian perspective. That doesn't mean we have to like it, but keeping in mind what the realistic options are and being willing to compromise for the best of a range of bad options makes us useful political players rather than irrelevant ideologues.
So this is my solution for tilting the balance of power in a more libertarian direction. An army of individualists evangelizing for smaller government and limited powers, one person at a time if need be. It isn't flashy or exciting, but I think it workable. Adding in the power of the blogosphere, with its natural focus on individual efforts and ability to aggregate influence without a command and control structure and I think we have a winning combination. If our ideas are right our influence will grow.