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Twenty Minutes Into the Future, or perhaps an Alternate History gone wrong, the United States is no longer the shining beacon of democracy that it once was. Perhaps civil war and/or an invasion has put the country into a dictatorship out of necessity, corporate influence has undermined the democratic ideals the nation once held, a theocratic religious movement has taken control of the government, or democracy has been suspended in order to fight off external or internal threats, real and/or imagined. Whatever the reason, the nation is only a democracy in name only, or sometimes, not even that if the regime is painfully honest.

Expect to see FEMA, DHS agents, cops that are always clad in riot gear, or even the military patrolling the streets, harassing innocent citizens for arbitrary crimes or by virtue of simply "being there." Civil rights have been suspended for the "greater good," and political dissidents are shipped off to concentration camps, never to be seen again.

A La Résistance of sorts will be featured usually, made up of fed-up citizens, and sometimes former or dissenting military or police personnel that are following their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Regardless, they'll be dismissed as terrorists by the American government, and will usually be used to justify the oppression.

How they are portrayed depends on the work. Some may have them as plucky heroes that still believe in idealistic American beliefs and are willing to die to restore them, whereas if the scale goes further towards cynicism, may have them portrayed as well meaning rebels that commit some atrocities to fight against the system, or even Right Wing Militia Fanatics (who turned out to be Properly Paranoid after all) who are little better than the system they are fighting.

In a political work that is left-leaning, expect to see this trope overlap with Eagle Land type 2. Right-leaning works will favor a Commie Land America.

Can overlap with Fallen States of America, if the nation has become a dictatorship as a result of the fallen status, or is one of the reasons behind it, although it is possible for the US to still be a superpower, or at least still be a "first-world nation". Divided States of America is also a possible trope as well, as the remaining US government may be trying to keep what is left of the nation together at any means possible. Invaded States of America can count too when the nation goes dictatorial to protect against the enemy, or if the invaded sections are under a restrictive foreign government.

Compare to Day of the Jackboot.

No Real Life Examples past the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Examples of Oppressive States of America include:


  • In Transmetropolitan the police are pretty corrupt and oppressive to begin with, carrying riot shields with SUBMIT printed on them and stomping of protestors' faces. When the Smiler takes over it gets worse, culminating in the City getting put under martial law.
  • In the What If story of Captain America, the USA is turned to this because Cap awakened from the popsicle way later than expected. When Cap noticed what happened, he's ends up really furious and interrupts a parade done by his impostor and then chews out the whole country. And it awesomely works.
  • Superman Red Son involves virtually the whole world becoming Communist thanks to Superman solving various economic problems. The US in an exception: its economy is on the verge of collapse and there is a mention of tanks in the streets of New York to suppress food riots. There's also a mention of a President Friedman.



  • In Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here a fascist government gets voted into office and proceeds to turn the country into an oppressive dictatorship.
  • In Robert Heinlein's novella "If This Goes On-", the U.S. has become a theocratic police state.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The fascist, theocratic Republic of Gilead is (one of?) the USA's successor states.
  • In Allen Steele's Coyote, the United States has degenerated into the fascist and theocratic "United Republic of America" where intellectual dissidents are rounded up with their families and carted off to forced re-education camps.
  • Strongly implied in Illuminatus, and would naturally come up in any work of fiction where The Illuminati (or similar) are the ones REALLY running the country.
  • In the first book of James Blish's Cities In Flight series, America is rapidly becoming a totalitarian state ruled by the hereditary head of the FBI, Francis X. MacHinery.

Live-Action TV

  • Charmed's 6th season has Chris who comes back in time to help prevent an accident that causes Wyatt to lose all sense of morality and take control via magic - it's not clear whether this is actually just America or the whole world.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: A smaller example featured The Sanctuary Districts, sections of cities walled off that housed the poor and unemployed. While their intent was to aid them, they later degraded into interment camps.
  • The Sliders visited an alternate-history America in which J Edgar Hoover had become president, leading within a few decades to a totalitarian US in which the government was woefully underfunded, organised criminals ran the economy, and the police wore kilts.

Tabletop Games

  • The 80s action movie-inspired free game The Hard Way features an America much like the one from Escape from New York, with MICOM (Military-Industrial COMplex) and the Yuppies controlling everything, Manhattan being turned into a state penitentiary, political dissent being considered treason under the "Freedom Act," HOMSEC goons blackbagging people at night and sending them to FEMA camps, Chinese-Americans being interned because of the current war against China, survivalists, death cults and racial supremacists thriving outside the big cities; and everyone with slave wages, potato chips and TV sets -- basically a corporate-fascist America nightmare. All this in the backdrop of a three-way conflict between the US, the Chinese and the Soviet Union for the last remaining natural resources, with the rest of the world not being much better than America.
  • Prior to 2056, in the Shadowrun game-setting, elections in the UCAS had been conducted via a "remote-vote" system. That year, it was revealed that this voting system had been rigged to ensure a reelection; the incumbent administration was ousted, followed by an immediate Special Presidential Election in 2057 to restore legitimate democracy and avert this trope.
  • The US is well into this trope in GURPS Cyberworld ... before the government gets around to formally suspending the Constitution. The Provisional President makes regular speeches about the upcoming end to the Permanent Emergency and a return to democracy, but no one with a working brain believes those speeches.

Web Original

  • The Alternate History Decades of Darkness is about the development of the United States into this. The War of 1812 spills into a much earlier civil war that sees every state north/east of Pennsylvania seceding and forming the Republic of New England. The remnant US, dominated by the southern states and their slave-holding elite, becomes an imperial power built upon white supremacy, expanding across Latin America and co-opting the local white elites while keeping the black, indio and mestizo masses in slavery and peonage. New England also goes through a period of authoritarianism in the 1920s and early '30s after badly losing a war with the US.

Western Animation

  • Justice League episode "A Better World" takes place in an Alternate Universe where the Justice League has become the tyrannical Justice Lords after the death of the Flash, and the subsequent murder of Lex Luthor. The Justice Lords appear to have an iron grip on everything, even going so far as to lobotomize their enemies, and keeping them in a place that is decidedly not a Cardboard Prison.

Video Games

  • Deus Ex: Freedoms have been curbed to fight off "excessive terrorism." After the Northwest war before the game starts, parts of the nation are still under martial law. As the world continues to go to shit, the nation goes under full-fledged martial law in order to control rising civil unrest.
  • The Infocom game A Mind Forever Voyaging shows the decline of the US from a democracy to a theocratic dictatorship over three decades. The player character is an AI who can see the future and must prevent the death of democracy.
  • Liberal Crime Squad begins with US either heading this way or already there (if you begin with nightmare mode on). The Conservatives are to blame, of course.
  • The Fallout series. Before the war, the United States government had become increasingly paranoid and militaristic in the face of the threat posed by China and the resource shortages. They also signed off on the amazingly inhumane "vault" experiments. After the war, the last remnants of the old government form the Enclave, a brutal paramilitary organization that's willing to cause the death of almost everyone in the world to achieve its goals.
  • Implied in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. One of Pravin Lal's quotes references a painful lesson about the importance of free flow of information learned by Americans in Earth's final century.
  • Home Front: Overlaps with Invaded States of America. Any area controlled by Korea is under military rule, where US citizens are killed left and right. Even before the war, the US wasn't doing so hot in terms of freedom, as it slipped into Fallen States of America territory.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos has the United States turned into a dictatorship after a takeover by the Vice President.
  • The US in Shattered Union became this way under the Presidency of David Jefferson Adams, who put the West Coast put under martial law and sailed to a second term through a blatantly rigged election (because there's no way he could've been re-elected under any other circumstances). The nuclear terrorist attack on Washington DC during his inauguration, and the ensuing decapitation of the federal government and the line of succession, triggers the Second American Civil War.

Real Life

  • The Japanese Internment during World War II. 110,000 Japanese-American citizens were relocated to camps with little warning, only being able to take the clothes on their backs. Conditions in the camps were horrible, and many would commit suicide rather than suffer.
  • Being black during the era of segregation in the US, which saw "Jim Crow" laws being passed in many states that restricted where black people could go, what jobs they could have, where they could live, etc. In certain parts of America, a black person who did the wrong thing (or was even accused or suspected of doing the wrong thing), especially to a white person, was pretty much doomed -- even if he or she was proclaimed innocent, he or she was in very real danger of being lynched.
  • The Red Scare during the early to middle part of the 20th century. Holding differing opinions from the American mainstream could land you in a lot of trouble. The most notable was McCarthyism during the 50s, which was effectively witch hunts for suspected Communists. Those caught in the hunts, even if they weren't Communists, could have their lives destroyed.
  • During the American Civil War, suspected sympathizers to the Confederacy could be arrested with out trial or warning.
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