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Oppressive States of America

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Snake Plissken: Got a smoke?
Sergeant Malloy: The United States is a no-smoking nation. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. No women — unless, of course, you're married. No guns, no foul language, no red meat.
Snake Plissken: Land of the free.

20 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 turned the country into The Dictatorship, corporate influence or a theocratic religious movement has undermined the ideals the nation once held, or democracy has been suspended in order to fight off external or internal threats, real and/or imagined. Whatever the reason, the nation is a democracy only in name, 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 simply for "being there". Civil rights have been suspended for the "greater good", and political dissidents are shipped off to concentration camps or made to "quietly disappear", never to be seen again.

A La Résistance of sorts will usually be featured, 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. 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 values and are willing to die to restore them, whereas if the scale goes further towards cynicism, they may be well-meaning rebels that do commit 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, and often become much worse.

In a political work that is left-leaning, expect to see this trope overlap with The Boorish version of Eagleland and A Nazi by Any Other Name; an America where separation of church and state no longer exists and in which the government is in the pockets of crooked businessmen and warmongers - or a combination of both. Right-leaning works will favor a Commie Land America, with shades of either old-style Stalinism or '60s radicalism depending on the period the work came from. Or, since the end of the Cold War, radical Islamists imposing ''Sharia'' law, banning Christianity, and revoking all rights of women and kafirs.note  Libertarian and centrist works will often take elements of both of these portrayals. In any case you're sure to see a President Evil at the top of the whole thing.

Can overlap with Fallen States of America, if the nation's slide into dictatorship was a cause or result of the fallen status. Divided States of America or Second American Civil War are also possible tropes, as the remaining US government may be trying to keep what is left of the nation together by any means necessary, if the oppression was not the cause of the civil war to begin with. (Of course, The revolution may not be civilized as well.)

Invaded States of America can count too when the nation goes dictatorial to protect against the enemy, or if the invaded sections are under an oppressive foreign government. Also see Evil States of America, which is where the United States are the bad guys, oppressive or not.

Basically Day of the Jackboot with a specifically American focus.

Sub-Trope of Different States of America.

No Real Life Examples past the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, please. Needless to say, many ideologues and conspiracy theorists on all ends of the political spectrum believe this trope to be Truth in Television, some tropers and readers could probably write an essay complete with citations about how there are at least some elements that are truthful, let's just leave it at that.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Black Bullet, the light novels mentioned many countries that treat cursed children much worse than Tokyo. The United States happens to be one of them, as cursed children are hunted down and captured like wild animals, forced into slavery (usually either sold into sex slavery or to civil security companies), and used as experiments to unlock their superhuman abilities and implanting Varanium parts in their bodies.
  • The second arc of Blue Comet SPT Layzner (episodes 26-38)

    Comic Books 
  • 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 What If? #44, the USA became an increasingly fascistic police state (complete with rounding up of blacks and Jews) because of the influence of a jingoistic impostor Captain America… until the real one awakens in 1983..
  • 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 DMZ, the US is in the midst of second civil war, and while the lines of territory aren't very clear, (as the rebellious "Free States of America" is much closer to an insurgency than a nation state) the territory that is firmly controlled by the original US Government is kept under martial law, the government has essentially taken over the media and turned it all into propaganda, and it has few if any qualms about murdering or ruining the lives of innocent civilians, especially if it somehow gives them an edge against the Free States.
  • Liberality for All is set in a United States that has become a left-wing dictatorship under the UN thanks to Al Gore winning in 2000.
  • Watchmen: Richard Nixon is closing in on his fifth term, crime is rampant all over the country and Zeppelins from Another World are shown to be watching over all the streets. Also in Before Watchmen, it is revealed that because of the Red Scare, the Costume Vigilantes were made to show their identities and prove they were not involved with the Russians. This example is not quite as extreme as some others, though - a free press of sorts still exists, and at the end of the comic it looks like Nixon is going to lose the election to Robert Redford.
  • Quite a few of the Chick Tracts are set in these sorts of futures, often with the dictatorship being aligned with the Vatican.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • America has been split into three independent mega-cities, each of which is a fascist police state. Somewhat atypical in that the main characters are the Judges, i.e. the ones who are enforcing the police state, yet they mostly aren't portrayed negatively. Primarily because the Dreddverse is an extreme Crapsack World that has been on the brink of total destruction each time the Judges weren't there to hold the line.
    • The Alternate Universe that the Dark Judges hailed from was at first depicted ambiguously, but more recent stories have set it in a clear analogue of the United States. Somehow the fascist police state created there was even WORSE than in Judge Dredd's world, with the judges ultimately deciding to just wipe out their whole population in the name of law. Since the publication of The Fall of Deadworld it's become clear that pre-Judge Death this universe was effectively the Mirror Universe for Dredd's. In the Dreddverse the Judges are harsh but intended to be fundamentally fair and are trying to preserve civilization in the midst of a post-apocalyptic world (Depending on the Writer). On Deadworld they are explicitly out for their own power, take drugs to suppress morality and corruption is not only endemic but expected. It's telling that the local Judge Child (who in the Dreddverse is Evil All Along) is a fundamentally good person and Death's prophecised last obstacle to his evil dream.
  • Frank Miller's Give Me Liberty intersected this with Divided States of America.
  • Squadron Supreme: In the backstory, America was one of these, with civilians being dragged off to camps to be brainwashed into obeying the Overmind, a telepathic villain who'd taken control of President Kyle Richmond, and through him his fellow members of the Squadron Supreme. The team's efforts to undo the damage done ultimately result in an even more oppressive government taking over when the Squadron gets trapped in another universe.

    Eastern Animation 

    Fan Works 
  • Halloween Unspectacular has several examples:
    • The story "An Average Day" features an America that has become dominated by corporations. Lower and middle class employees/citizens are forced to take drugs that keep them obedient and compliant, and those who show resistance to the drugs' effects face a variety of cruel fates, from conscription to exile to liquidation.
    • "The Dictator" features the eponymous nameless tyrant (who is implied to be the embodiment of all of mankind's crueler inclinations) having taken over the US. Under his rule, his "Freedom Brigades" round up and imprison or execute anyone deemed an enemy of the state. Which includes entire towns.
    • The second Myth Arc sees the Nazi remnant group PURITY manage to seize control of the US (by means of President Fulton selling out to them). They proceed to have anyone with powers rounded up in concentration camps, while critics of the regime are either arrested or executed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: The United States has become this in 1991, with the Governors now holding very powerful authority. Since the movie was released around the time of the Vietnam protests, it's probably taking a real life situation and turning it up to eleven.
  • C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America. In the Confederacy (which now includes even the Northern states and most of the Americas after their conquests) the entire black population is enslaved, gender equality is non-existent, deviation of sexual orientation is not tolerated, Hispanics and Asians are subjected to apartheid, and there is not much political freedom even for white people.
  • Demolition Man: Set in a future where the US has gone totalitarian, banning virtually anything that could possibly be considered unhealthy or offensive. Heavily implied to have come about after a period of mass privatization and civil unrest.
  • Firebird 2015 A.D.: The US government just woke up one day in August 1992 and decreed that gasoline would be for law enforcement and military use only, creating an agency to stomp down on any civilian use of gasoline. The film takes place 23 years after the edict was passed, with driving having become a symbol of rebellion. It is implied that the government did not stopped there, but the film does not focuses on that.
  • The Running Man. The U.S. has become intensely repressive, including (among other things) slaughtering people who are protesting not having enough food.
  • Escape from New York has the whole "the entire of Manhattan Island is now one big concentration camp" thing, but other background details suggest the US government is too close to imploding completely to be doing much in the way of effective oppression.
  • Escape from L.A., has the U.S. going fascist when the Big One hits Los Angeles, and a religious nut uses this as a platform to get himself promoted to President for Life, even relocating the Capitol a little ways south to his hometown of Lynchburg, VA (a Take That! to Jerry Falwell, the founder of the "Moral Majority", whose Thomas Road Baptist Church is in the town). Anything he considers to be against his new "Moral America" laws (read: anything he doesn't like — tobacco, alcohol, red meat, guns, profanity, non-Christian religions, atheism, non-marital sex and more) is banned, with those who break the laws having to choose between getting deported to Los Angeles Island, which is every bit the hellhole that Manhattan Island Penitentiary was, or being executed in the electric chair. Snake lampshades it when he sarcastically calls the new states "the land of the free". At the same time, the country's military has degraded to the point where a ragtag force of Latin American countries has a legitimate chance of invading the US.
  • Back to the Future Part II: An alternate timeline is created where Richard Nixon is still President in the 1980s following the repeal of the 22nd amendment, the Vietnam War rages on and crime and corruption are at endemic levels as Casinos spread nation wide.
  • The corporation-as-government or MegaCorp in RoboCop.
  • Gray State was to be an independent action thriller about an America in the grip of an oppressive regime, rooted in many real-life Conspiracy Theorist fears and marketed to that crowd. In the trailer, Americans are under martial law and constant surveillance via both cameras and Tracking Chips, the economy is in freefall, foreign UN troops are being brought into the US to patrol the streets, and dissidents are being sent to concentration camps under the control of FEMA where they are beheaded via guillotine. There are also hints (most notably the triangle motifs) that this is all the work of The Illuminati, and that the government stages fake terrorist attacks to keep people scared and compliant. What's more, the trailer's tagline "The Second American Revolution May Not Be Remembered" hinted at a Downer Ending where La Résistance was ultimately crushed and the regime won. It remains unfinished ever since its creator David Crowley killed his family and himself in 2015. The Werner Herzog-produced documentary A Gray State was about Crowley and how he believed this trope to be on its way to becoming Truth in Television, how his beliefs drove him over the edge, and how the film's backers decided that Crowley and his family had been taken out by the government because his story got too close to their actual plans.
  • In Barb Wire (a thinly-veiled remake of Casablanca), the US has become a Third World country under martial law. The government forces do whatever they want, and their officers walk around like Gestapo (wearing Commissar Caps). The economy is so bad that people prefer to be paid in Canadian dollars, and Canada is seen as the place to go for anyone who doesn't want to live in this hellhole. Strangely, prostitution is legal, and prostitutes are required to undergo frequent medical exams and display their med-cards upon request.
  • Death Race 2000: The USA has morphed into the United Provinces of America, with the titular brutal blood sport being a form of Bread and Circuses for what's clearly a fascist state. They're implied to rule the (former?) Soviet Union and China, because Mr President has residences in both countries capitals, while looking to wage new wars (France is blamed in the film for attacks by domestic rebels).

  • In Philip K. Dick's novel Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, the police and the National Guard (often referred to as "pols" and "nats" in the story) have come to restore order and install a dictatorship in the United States following a Second Civil War. They enforce checkpoints throughout the country, and those who don't provide identification are shipped off to labor camps.
  • 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 A. 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. After the Republic collapses, it is effectively taken over by a united South and Central America to form the Western Hemisphere Union, a socialist/communist society. While it's quite a bit better than the Republic, they are very imperialist and seek to control the former U.R.A. colony of Coyote.
  • Strongly implied in Illuminatus!, and would naturally come up in any work of fiction where The Illuminati (or a similar Ancient Conspiracy) are the ones REALLY running the country. The country isn't actually depicted as any more oppressive than the real life United States during the Vietnam war, but it is depicted as incompetent and monomaniac, and easily manipulated by The Illuminati towards the total loss of personal privacy and permanent state of martial law. Supposedly. But even that is just another case of misdirection, since the conspiracy's true goal is the near-extinction of all humanity.
  • 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.
  • In The Hunger Games, after an unspecified collapse of civilization (possibly involving some major geographic changes) the U.S. has become a tyrannical autocracy renamed "Panem" and is split into twelve districts. This name is derived from the Latin phrase "panem et circenses" or "Bread and Circuses," hence Peeta being the son of a baker and the eponymous "Games" serving as circuses to entertain the masses and keep them in check.
  • In Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler, the U.S. has become this. The United States is ruled by Jarrett, an Evangelical Christian who uses all non-Christians as a scapegoat and puts them in concentration camps. The country is in shambles and Alaska has seceded from the union and is at war with Canada.
  • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, all of Earth is an oppressive state to the lunar colony, but "North America" is the most vocal and aggressive.
  • In the 2060s storyline of Star Trek: Federation the Optimum Movement takes over much of the world, including the United States. There the Constitution has been suspended and only the fifteen states with Optimum majorities are allowed to send representatives to Congress.
  • The Harry Turtledove short story Joe Steele has Joe Steel - an Alternate History version of Josef Stalin whose parents immigrated to the United States - turn America into a Communist dictatorship after being elected President.
  • The Timeline-191 series by the same author features a US that, having lost two wars to a Confederate/Britain/France alliance, has allied closely with Imperial Germany. The nation is increasingly regimented and militarized, everything is strictly rationed, and conscription is universal. A series of Mormon uprisings causes the government to simply ban the Mormon church, and the administration of occupied Canada, Texas, and Kentucky is extremely brutal, with suspected criminals executed without trial, hostages taken in retaliation for guerilla activity, and (oddly given that the main political divide in the setting is the Democrats and the Socialist Party) virtually no safety or labor rights laws. The Confederacy isn't as strife-ridden, at least for most of the series, but much more racist, and becomes genocidally paranoid when engaged in its last war with the oppressive Union.
  • In Animorphs, the third Megamorphs book suddenly opens here with no initial explanation; it quickly comes out that Visser Four managed to find the Time Matrix and rewrite history. As a result the United States is part of a British empire trying to wipe out "primitives" in South America, slavery is legal (though based on disability rather than race), Jake is a Sociopathic Hero and Rachel is in a reeducation camp to "learn her place." Fortunately this circumstance is inconvenient for both of the series' Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, who restore the Animorphs' memories and send them through time to fix things.
  • In Christian Nation, the United States becomes an oppressive Christian theocracy through an alternate history where Sarah Palin becomes the first female President and is followed by her aide Steve Jordan succeeding her, suspending the Constitution in favor of The Blessings which every state is obliged to follow as the law of the land.
  • Fyodor Berezin's Red Stars series describes a parallel world with a point of divergence being a British warship providing fire support to pockets of resistance to the Nazi war machine in the Balkans, forcing Hitler to delay Operation Barbarossa by a month. As a result, Stalin manages to successfully plan and execute an invasion of Germany, beating the Nazis in under 2 years and proceeding to move on to "liberate" the rest of Europe. Fast-forward to modern times, the Alt!USSR dominates the world, with only North America remaining free, although "free" is a relative term, since the economic and social pressure (not to mention a state of semi-open war and liberal use of tactical nukes) has forced the US into this trope.
  • The 80s sci-fi series U.S.S.A. by Tom De Haven is set in an America that is taken over by the military and turns into a Police State called the United Secure States of America. Movies are censored, rock music is banned, and outspoken teachers are disappearing. Eddie Ludlow, a high school student in Ohio, decides to try to fight this oppressive new order with the help of other like-minded kids.
  • The first half of Victoria has the United States turn into an overly politically correct and repressive state where people are sued heavily for something as simple as smoking and other people being nearby. This leads to riots in the streets, militia uprisings, and roving gangs in big cities and ends with a very suspicious-looking terrorist attack that blows Washington D.C. off the map and kills off a majority of the Presidential line of succession. The second half is about the aftermath, following the (supposedly) heroic successor state of Victoria as it conquers rival successor states with its militia forces and sheer unpredictability. They then proceed to create their own version of this trope, though theirs is on the opposite side of the political spectrum, being a right-wing fundamentalist state. The narrative paints this as a happy ending.
  • The Long Walk: The United States has become a dictatorship under the control of the Major and his Secret Police after the country lost World War II (note that the U.S. is still independent, since it appears the Axis Powers only performed skirmish campaigns in the Americas). The regime keeps the population docile with the annual Long Walk, where 100 teenage boys are forced on a grueling marathon and killed one by one.
  • Caliphate has the United States become a Christian theocratic empire in response to an nuclear assault in their territory and Western Europe being converted into an Islamic state. The President outright rules like an Emperor in-name-only, the Constitution is repealed and they have annexed most of the American continent such as Canada and Mexico - the few independent countries not under their control such as Brazil and the Philippines are just client states instead.
  • In We Are Legion (We Are Bob), when Bob is re-awakened 117 years after being hit by a car, he learns that the US was taken over by the religious right and transformed into the Free American Independent Theocratic Hegemony (FAITH for short). Incorrect thought is remedied by brainwashing straight out of A Clockwork Orange, numerous theocratic factions are too busy fighting with one another to actually run the country, the Internet is gone (the information there is hard to control), and history has undergone many revisions by the government. Bob himself, as an uploaded "replicant", is seen as either a useful tool or a spawn of the Devil, depending on the faction. But very few treat him as a person.
  • In America 2014, the George Blush Administration passed a law that stripped voting rights from anyone convicted for drug-related crimes, disenfranchising a large enough percentage of the population that the Republicans cemented their control of the government after 2004. The country is renamed "God's United States", and Blush is on his 4th term by the title year. Everyone is subject to Sinister Surveillance, the War on Terror seems like it will last forever, and dissidents are sent to Private Profit Prisons by a Kangaroo Court.

    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 internment camps.
  • This happened in an alternate universe on Stargate SG-1, after the Stargate program went public. The world was not ready, and a scramble for control over the Stargates led to civil unrest and geopolitical power-mongering.
  • The Sliders visited several examples of this, such as 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, organized criminals ran the economy, and the police wore kilts.
    • Those are skirts, thank you very much.
    • And the worst part is, there's no rock 'n' roll.
    • Another version of the US has this almost happen to it, with a popular Presidential candidate spouting slogans like "America for Americans" and advocating for the removal of all those who don't fit the American "genetic standard" (ironically, Native Americans would probably be kicked out too.) Basically, anyone non-white might as well move to Mexico. He has already managed to do this to California (being the state's governor). His company is also supplying so-called robotic servants to do menial tasks. The dark secret of his campaign is that those servants are, in fact, US citizens who don't fit the "standard" and are forced to undergo Unwilling Roboticisation.
  • Likewise, an alternate universe in Lois & Clark brought us President Charlton Heston. One person, one vote, one semi-automatic rifle! It's implied that the reason America has degraded into a wild west nightmare is that Alt-Clark married Lana Lang, who forbids him from fighting crime.
  • Dark Angel is set in a world where the US was devastated by a terrorist EMP attack in 2009. Little more than 10 years later, the US has degenerated into a 3rd world banana republic kept in check by periodic martial law.
  • Person of Interest The fourth season's plot is basically the story of how the Samaritan artificial intelligence system begins constructing one before moving onto the world. Building a large network of politicians to do its bidding, creating the means to brainwash the next generation of American children, and manipulating the intel given to counter-terrorist operatives are just the tip of the iceberg of the steps it takes to achieve its goal.
  • The Handmaid's Tale, like the novel before it. It keeps the same setting as the book (Boston and Cambridge, MA), but seeing those liberal bastions transformed under an oppressive theocracy gives the series extra shock value. In the flashbacks of the time leading up to the "official" founding of Gilead, things were not much better. Riot police respond to a march of people protesting the law stripping women of their property rights by firing on them with heavy machine guns.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "Decompression", the Time Traveler tells Senator Wyndom Brody that history has been altered and the Age of Enlightenment that he created as President has been replaced by a new timeline in which the US is a police state where people are constantly monitored. In this new timeline, acts of terrorism and riots were widespread throughout the country and a weak President was able to capitalize on the situation by becoming a tyrant. She does not name the President but Brody is certain that it is Governor Stanton, his opponent for his party's nomination. The Time Traveler convinces Brody that he must save himself and correct the course of history by jumping out of the plane, which will crash on re-entry. She assures him that she will transport him to safety. However, when he does so, the Time Traveler reveals that her true mission was to change history and prevent him from becoming President as his selfishness, egotism and paranoia combined to turn him into the tyrannical President of whom she spoke. She accomplished her mission by appealing to Brody's considerable sense of self-importance and desire to save his own skin. The Time Traveler then allows him to fall to his death. The plane lands safely without him.
    • In "Abaddon", the former United States has been ruled by the North American Corporation since 2102. Its population, known as shareholders, live their lives in service to the Company.

  • In Paul Kantner's 1970 science-fiction concept album, Blows Against the Empire, the increasingly oppressive and fascistic government of the US, which has outright declared rock-and-roll illegal, inspires a rag-tag band of hippies to hijack a starship and set off on their own.
  • The setting of Styx's 1983 concept album, Kilroy Was Here, was of a futuristic America where a theocratic dictatorship has banned rock music.
  • The Nine Inch Nails album Year Zero from 2007 is set in an America that has become a Christian Fundamentalist theocracy, maintaining control of the populace through the Bureau of Morality and the First Evangelical Church of Piano, as well as through seeding the water with a drug called Parepin.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Trinity, the United States of America will socially collapse due to conflicts with the super-powered aberrants. The military and key corporations take control from the broken civilian government and establish the Federated States of America, a fascist nation where the voting system is rigged to give the wealthy and corporations the lion's share of votes in all elections. All media is censored and civil rights are purely at government discretion. The FSA also annexed large chunks of Canada and Mexico as part of a resource grab.
  • 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. Of course, with the mega-corporations ruling the world anyway...
  • The US is well into this trope in GURPS Cyberworld, even 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.
  • The US, as well as most of the world, have become this in the RPG Brave New World (no relation to the novel) after a super-villain Delta nearly killed President Kennedy.
  • The game SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists is set in an alternate 80s era America that has been taken over by homegrown fascism, but is meant to draw parallels to America under Donald Trump, who was President when the game was released. The police and the military have been consolidated into one body called the "Freedom Fist" that enforces a nationalistic and oppressive rule across America. While there are still elections, and still things like the Bill of Rights, the Regime has strong control over all branches of government, and enforcement of these rights is significantly lopsided with a very strong bias against women and minorities racial, sexual and otherwise, who find that there are all kinds of ways to criminalize them or otherwise render the rights they're supposed to have moot. Immigrants are hauled into internment camps for daring to outstay their welcome. The media are controlled, and all forms of communication are used to try to catch would-be resisters; the only hope the five groups that make up the resistance have is The Signal, which gives those that have been attuned to it the power to fight back against the Freedom Fist and the Regime.

    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.
  • Hearts of Iron IV Game Mods:
  • 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.
  • Fallout: Before the Great War, the United States government had become increasingly paranoid and militaristic in the face of the resource shortages and the Sino-American War. Going so far as to censor speech and secretly nationalizing companies. The Enclave (the éminence grise of the federal government) exacerbated geopolitical relations and ignored the Constitution of the United States, put into motion a series of unconstitutional, inhumane, and war criminal projects; (for example; the Robobrain manufacturing process — where factories were set up to extract the brains from living prisoners to be used for expendable robot processors, the various Vault experiments, the Forced Evolutionary Virus experiments, the various bio weapons programs, et cetera). After the war, they were willing to cause global genocide to achieve its goals of wiping out communism and becoming the sole heirs of the planet.
  • 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. Additionally, Miriam Godwinson's file lists her as hailing from the Christian States of America, either implying a takeover by fundamentalists or a Divided States of America situation. The fact that Ulrik Svensgaard is listed as coming from the United States of America indicates the latter case.
  • Homefront: 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. Out in the boonies, the militia fighters are just as bad as the Koreans.
  • 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 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, D.C. during his inauguration, and the ensuing decapitation of the federal government and the line of succession triggers the Second American Civil War. Whether the player creates one of these or returns the nation to her glory days depends on how he or she conducts the war (sparing cities and avoiding the use of WMDs tends to avoid this trope).
  • Civilization: America is a mainstay Civ and can be played with any level of Government Opression. In fact, the starting government is almost always a chiefdom/despotism, meaning for much of the early game play, America is this. Notably in Civ V, America's AI was highly expansive and sought big empires, which almost demands that they pick the Communist inspired late game government.
  • In Wolfenstein: The New Order, the Allies lost World War II because the Nazis came up with super-science weapons that allowed them to devastate Britain and America, which surrendered after Washington was nuked. Overlaps with Fallen States of America.
    • Sequel game Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus takes place in the conquered America, and shows this side of the trope. Nazi rule is absolute, forcing people to assimilate Germanic culture and adhere to Nazi standards (such as reducing Afro-Americans to slavery). It's also implied that the Ku Klux Klan is not only actively out and in force, but may be legitimized or at least supported by the Nazis.

    Web Original 
  • The Alternate History story Decades of Darkness is about the transformation of the United States into an authoritarian, slave-holding empire, with the author describing the intention as creating a more realistic version of The Draka.
    • The Point of Divergence is the War of 1812 spilling into a much earlier civil war that sees every state north/east of Pennsylvania seceding and forming the Republic of New England, which aligns with Britain and helps hand them a resounding victory in the war. The remnant, revanchist 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. While still maintaining democratic forms, the franchise has been tightly restricted to the white populationnote , and the major parties merely promote variations on the oppressive structure that the nation is built upon. By the 20th century, they've even started forcing their fellow white people (specifically, Canadian rebels in the conquered British Columbia) into slavery.
    • New England also goes through a period of fascism (known here as "vitalism") from the mid 1920s through the early '30s due to an economic crisis, fear of socialism spreading in Canada and Newfoundland, and a badly lost war with the US, though fortunately, the vitalists' bumbling leadership eventually gets them thrown out in a bloodless coup and replaced with a comparatively benign, democratic socialist government. Notably, the general who led the coup chooses to go into exile in Iceland rather than remain in New England, lest he run the risk of becoming a dictator himself.
  • The Alternate History A World of Laughter, a World of Tears explores a world where Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1952 and Walt Disney became President instead. Under him the United States maintains segregation and goes in an increasingly paranoid and authoritarian direction. Many celebrities flee to Europe as The Mickey Mouse Club and its eager children and parents use patriotism and accusations of Un-American activity to browbeat (or just beat down) 1950s counterculture. Much better than it sounds.
  • Another Alternate History story, Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72, features this in its Sequel Series. Donald Rumsfeld gets elected President in 1980 despite losing the popular vote by a decisive margin, chiefly due to the vagaries of the Electoral College system and left-wing voters being divided between two candidates. Under his watch, political dissidents (including George Carlin, Barry Goldwater, James Gavin, and Roger Ebert) are "disappeared", Hollywood becomes a far-right Propaganda Machine pushing the US government line, rapacious yuppie capitalism and religious fundamentalism rule the land, the civilian internet is strangled in its cradle in the interest of "national security", the military-industrial complex grows increasingly bloated and overstretched, and interstate travel is restricted. The 1984 election saw blatant vote fraud (and even then, Rumsfeld once more lost the popular vote and had to rely on the Electoral College), and it's implied that there will be a False Flag Operation to justify support for apartheid South Africa.
    • After Rumsfeld is thrown out of office, his successor, the conservative Jeremiah Denton, decides to serve out the remainder of his term and restore human rights after being horrified by what Rumsfeld did. Unfortunately, his own fundamentalist allies swept him from power. By 1990, they've create a totalitarian theocracy under the rule of Douglas Coe, and have unleashed nuclear weapons in a civil war against breakaway states.
  • Capto Iugulum: Scottist America was definitely this, with the military controlling all aspects of society, the practice of slavery expanding into industry and lasting into the 20th century, even harsher Indian Wars, and much of the west ruled by generals via "Military Districts."
  • Ad Astra Per Aspera: Congress successfully impeaches Andrew Johnson, resulting in a much more chaotic Reconstruction. Consequently, the United States gradually becomes more authoritarian, until the Constitution is formally abolished in 1965 and replaced with an absolute monarchy.
  • In Reds!: A Revolutionary Timeline, due to William McKinley not being assassinated by Leon Czolgosz (the rewrite re-imagines the point of divergence being a more unified Socialist movement by the end of the 1890s) a socialist regime takes control of America by revolution in 1933, and becomes the Union of American Socialist Republics (UASR). However, in this case the socialists are (mostly) the good guys. Not surprisingly, it was the attempt of previous administrations to suppress radical socialism that caused this revolution. This trope varies in its severity throughout this timeline:
    • The suppression of dissidents that occurred during our World War I is slightly worse, resulting in the arrest of socialist politicians, and even respected statesmen like Robert La Follette.
    • When the socialist Worker's Party wins the 1932 election in a landslide, First Secretary Nicholas Longworth and General Douglas MacArthur successfully pressure outgoing President Herbert Hoover to suspend the Constitution, paving the way for the assassination of the Socialist President-Elect Norman Thomas and a mass arrest of the Worker's Party leading members. The so-called Freedom Corps and The Klan attempt to put down any opposition, notably massacring Huey Long and disloyal members of the Louisiana State Legislature when they openly protest against this bald-faced subversion of the Constitution. This is the final straw that sets the stage for the Civil War from which the UASR will be birthed.
    • When it becomes clear that they are going to be on the losing end of the Civil War, the remnants of the US government and their supporters flee to Cuba and establish a new government, with Douglas MacArthur as President Evil. He proceeds to oppress the Cuban population. It's implied that this will be subverted in the later years of the Cuban-US nation.
    • The early years of the UASR are a downplayed version of this trope. Many of those deemed "reactionaries" and "counter-revolutionaries" are dealt with by Kangaroo Court and firing squads, but it is nowhere near the scale of the Soviet Union, and many of the sentenced were genuinely responsible in suppressing American democracy. These actions are still seen in-universe as a black spot on the early history of the UASR, but none of the UASR leaders are portrayed as evil for them.
  • In The Falcon Cannot Hear, where the assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 leads to a Second American Civil War by 1937, many of the factions involved in the fighting are some flavor of authoritarian. The American Soviet Republic is a Moscow-backed Stalinist state, the Civilian Government (aka the Whites) is a coalition of fascists and corporate interests backed by Nazi Germany, and Douglas MacArthur's military government (aka the Khakis) is the heir to the military coup that started the civil war in the first place. Only the Red Oak Pact, a coalition between the democratic socialist Provisional Government (aka the Blues) and the agrarian populist Continental Congress (aka the Greens), can be considered benign; while they get their share of What the Hell, Hero? moments as well, they're very much A Lighter Shade of Grey compared to the competition. Fortunately, the Red Oak Pact eventually prevails, with the Khakis collapsing after a hurricane hits Washington, D.C. and kills MacArthur, disgruntled leaders and factions in the Whites and Reds defecting to the Red Oak Pact, and the Canadians eventually sending troops to support them.
  • In The Innocent, the United States, like the rest of the world, is taken over by children who turns all the adults into slaves.
  • In No W, America quickly becomes this under President Rick Santorum, who starts turning it into a theocratic dictatorship. Political opponents and public figures who criticize him tend to either die in plane crashes, get arrested on trumped up charges, or outright disappear. Laws are passed that discriminate against the LGBT community as sacrilegious, and ban video games or television shows that have even the slightest adult content. And eventually, the Muslim population is rounded up in "protection centers", supposedly to protect them from bigotry, but it is implied they're a precursor for extermination camps.
  • An Examination of Extra-Universal Systems of Government has a couple of examples:
    • The United States under the reign of Edward Butler indiscriminately bombed Islamic countries (including nuking Mecca and Medina), tried to persecute Islam in America, and placed the country under martial law in an attempt to prevent anyone from opposing or impeaching the Butler regime. Fortunately, Butler's regime didn't last long, and America fell into rebellion, utterly dissolving the United States, with nearly all the former states joining the North American Union, while Butler set up a Government in Exile in Guantanamo.
    • The United States in the world of "The Eagle in Exile" is described as a "right-wing Soviet Union" after a revolution turned the country into an autocratic state dominated by the military and the "Tea Party Coalition." This caused Americans living overseas and in exile to form the American Overseas Republic.
    • The US in the "Liberty Now Has A Country" timeline underwent a massive surge in the Red Scare, in which the government fell under the sway of Joe McCarthy (who eventually became President) and became fervently totalitarian in the 1960s and 1970s. This resulted in a massive revolt against a J. Edgar Hoover-ruled regime in 1977, and leading to the birth of the Federated States of America.
    • Founded from the aftermath of a longer and more violent Civil War and the Second American Revolution, the American Union is a one-party state ruled by the racially inclusive Sovereignist Party, which deport people of non-Caucasian ancestry from its country. Under the old guard of the New Founders, the Sovereignist Party forcibly removed millions of "undesirable populations" to labor camps in Canada's Northern Territories, where thousands died from the journey and the rest were worked to death in the cold—the New Founders believed that the "cold could do the work of poison gas." By the modern day the Americans refuse to talk about the "Second Trail of Tears", as mentioning it is punishable with arrest or worse.
    • The National Socialist States of America is basically the Nazi-American puppet from The Man in the High Castle becoming its own independent nation. After a coup in 1986, a futurist faction came to power that proceeded to obliterate American culture and Christianity, and pursue an apocalyptic and hypernationalist foreign policy.
  • What Madness is This? has the Federalist Party rig America's political system in their favor and lead the nation into an ill-advised war with France. After the Southern states secede in protest, the rump United States reorganizes itself into the Republican Union of America. After getting roped into the Napoleonic Wars, the Republican Union is invaded by British troops from Canada, who then proceed to Rape, Pillage, and Burn before being driven out. As a result, the Union develops a grudge against both their southern neighbors (for failing to come to their aid) and France (for dragging them into the conflict, then not giving them enough of a reward when Britain was defeated). The Republican Union spends the 19th century stewing with anger against the Southern republics and their French allies while oppressing anyone who isn't a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. By 1900, the Republican Union has turned into a full-fledged militaristic dictatorship. In the 1950s, the Republican Union finally reconquers the south and renames itself the New United States of America. However, NUSA only lasts about a decade and a half before fallling apart due to a plot by a MegaCorp.
  • For All Time sees the United States descend into isolationism and racial instability throughout the 20th century. By the mid-1970s, things have deteriorated into a quagmire of feuding racial militias, with domestic terrorism, a collapsing economy, a genetically-engineered flu pandemic, and, after a nuclear meltdown at a Mississippi power plant, a drastically exacerbated energy crisis. In response, President Jim Jones establishes an authoritarian rule over America after his election in 1976, locking up his opponents in labor camps, ruthlessly crushing militants of all stripes, and creating a paramilitary force called the "National Volunteer Army" to help enforce his rule. After Jones attempts to start a nuclear war to fulfill a delusional prophecy and is deposed in a silent coup, Alexander Haig takes over as President and rules America with an iron fist, although he manages to bring some stability to the country.
  • A somewhat lighter example in New Deal Coalition Retained. Under the administration of President Ted Bundy, the US passes heavily draconian anti-drug laws, and the National Guard is repeatedly used in large-scale roundups of drug users. Simultaneously, hate groups (many of which have started peddling drugs) are banned and similarly rounded up. Critics repeatedly bring up how these actions violate civil liberties and free speech.

    Western Animation  
  • The 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 Hellhole Prison.

    Real Life 
  • The Alien and Sedition Acts passed by President John Adams during the "Quasi-War" with Britain and France, which were a major factor in destroying Adams' presidency and getting Thomas Jefferson elected President in 1800.
    • President Woodrow Wilson would later pass similar laws as justification for the imprisonment of anti-war activists, socialists and other dissidents during WWI. This continued after the war with the First Red Scare, 1919-20, when thousands of foreign-born radical leftists were deported.
  • Sadly true for the Native Americans, who saw their rights undermined from the beginning of the US and were forced to migrate westwards. It got worse for them.
  • Both sides during The American Civil War engaged in oppressive actions.
    • On the Union side, Maryland was put under martial law to prevent it from seceding, and suspected sympathizers to the Confederacy could be arrested without warrant or trial. In spite of the historically famous stance against slavery, even freed black people ran the risk of being mistaken for escaped slaves before the war and could very easily be sold back into slavery on nothing more than the word of a single white man.
    • In the Confederacy, meanwhile, Union sympathizers (especially in Appalachia) found themselves terrorized by the secessionist governments, to the point where northwestern Virginia (a solidly pro-Union area in a Confederate state) counter-seceded and formed the pro-Union state of West Virginia. The Confederate central government also put down any attempts to increase local autonomy (basically stomping down the "states' rights" they were allegedly fighhting to preserve) and, of course, continued practicing slavery.
  • The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 effectively halted Chinese immigration to America. This stemmed from violent pogroms against Chinese laborers and various policies imposed by states. After the law was passed, large-scale riots such as the Rock Springs and the Hells Canyon Massacres forced many to leave for other areas or return back home. It wasn't until the 1960s that the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 restored mass immigration to the States from China.
  • If you were black during the era of segregation in the US, you were in for a bad time. In certain parts of America, a black person who did or said 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 by the court, he or she was in very real danger of being lynched by an angry white mob, with the police either standing by and doing nothing or, worse, actively egging them on or joining in. And across the country, black people and other minorities were not even allowed to live in certain towns, or even be in them after dark unless required by their job. This was especially the case during the nadir of American race relations, a period spanning from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 to sometime during the first half of the 20th century (historians differ on whether it ended in 1901, 1923, or 1941), in which white supremacy and white supremacist violence were at their most normalized in the United States.
    • The most notorious cases were in the Southern United States. After the Civil War and the end of the Reconstruction period, many states passed so-called "Jim Crow" laws that restricted where their newly-freed black populations could go, what jobs they could have, where they could live, what government services they could use, etc. The Jim Crow system, particularly the increasingly extreme effort taken to uphold it in the 1950s and '60s (look up Bull Connor and Orval Faubus if you need a downer), is still regarded as the collective Old Shame of the South.
    • In the North, meanwhile, segregation was carried out through means that were less blatant, yet arguably more insidious and harder to root out through government action. Most often, it was economic segregation, with black people being forced into ghettoes through discriminatory housing and real estate policies, and a thick glass ceiling preventing them from getting decent educations or careers.
  • In the Southwest, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were collectively excluded from white establishments along with African-Americans and dogs. Any Mexican accused of wrongdoing against a white person also faced the same fate of an African-American under similar circumstances.
    • In California, the only reason the education department did not adopt draconian policies similar to those in Southern states was because beginning with the the ruling of the 1931 ''Lemon Grove'' case and culminating with "Mendez vs. Westminster", the California Supreme Court declared that racially segregating schools was illegal under their constitution. They also overturned an anti-miscegenation law before most of the US did.
  • During the two Red Scares 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 and frequently did have their lives and careers destroyed.
  • Leading up to the First Red Scare, the US' entrance into WWI was marked by a sharp increase in repressive measures towards pacifists, organized labor, socialists, Communists, German-Americans, immigrants, and other perceived subversive or disloyal elements. The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 led to raids and prosecutions. The German language was excised from public life, with German classes stopped and German books burned. Some states even outlawed speaking German on the phone (ostensibly to stop spies from doing so). The "Committee on Public Information" (Creel Committee) fed the public propaganda and helped direct repression and harassment towards perceived enemy sympathizers or pacifists.
  • The Japanese Internment during World War II, in which 120,000 people, about two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were relocated to camps with little warning, and some were only able to take the clothes on their backs. Conditions in the camps varied greatly, from perfectly livable to downright horrific, due to the varied legal status of the camps (some were governed by the Geneva Convention and other international treaties, where conditions were the best, and others were governed by different areas of American law, which ran the gamut). In some camps, the internees were strictly confined to what amounted to barbed-wire enclosures, and internees were even shot on occasion. In other locations, the internees were allowed to wander outside the camps, engaged in agriculture, and even simply moved away to areas outside the West Coast "exclusion zone." Some especially fortunate internees were permitted to move back into the exclusion zone, though under "supervision."
    • Italian- and German-Americans were interned as well, although in much smaller numbers. However, they were free to leave the camps as long as they proved their loyalty to the U.S. and were able to get a job or go to school outside the defense zones, and many joined the military to prove their loyalty. Unfortunately, these camps pushed many Germans who were not previously sympathetic to the Nazis into the arms of what would eventually become the core of the modern neo-Nazi and White Power movements.
    • The great irony of the Japanese Internment is the case of Korematsu v. United States, in which the Supreme Court held the internment program to be constitutional. It's a widely and rightly reviled decision, along with other infamous decisions like Dred Scott v. Sanford, but it was also the birth of the Supreme Court's most rigorous and most important level of scrutiny: strict scrutiny. Most laws treating people differently based on their race or national origin are subject to strict scrutiny. Under a strict scrutiny analysis, a law is essentially presumed unconstitutional, and it requires an enormous showing from the government in order to survive. The government has only been able to meet this burden a handful of times. Through this standard, American courts demolished much of the racism inherent in governance, including segregation, Jim Crow, forced sterilizations, immigration quotas and court enforcement of racially restrictive covenants.
  • Before the ruling of Loving vs. Virginia in 1967, numerous states had laws that banned whites from marrying non whites, and breaking these laws often resulted in the guilty parties serving time behind bars.