While they are not represented in Congress, there are about 50 third parties, last I counted, including the "Big Three": the Constitution Party, the Green Party of the United States and the Libertarian Party.
The tea party is a splinter group from the Libertarians, who have a single purpose that I find somewhat short-sighted, yet they benefit from a lot of attention.
I changed to Independent during the Clinton years; long before the Independent Party of Oregon was formed - which does not suit me at all. Instead of voting for "the lesser of two evils," I voted for the candidate that best represented my interests regardless of their chances of winning. I reasoned that at least my vote showed someone wanted an alternative. (I occasionally voted for a Republican, too).
Media companies are invested in the current political structure, and indeed they manipulate the public by what they choose to report or not.
We, the public, must inform ourselves, research the issues beyond the echoing sound bites and biased comments, and apply critical thinking and common sense. It requires listening, reading, and thoughtfulness. We needn't beat each other up to solve mutual problems and we needn't take on controversies drummed up by those who benefit by them.