How Democracy Died Here, to Loud Applause and Bored Yawns

An excerpt from a future textbook of post-American history

By John Zmirak Published on June 9, 2023

A time traveler provided me with a foreign textbook from 2073, describing the radical changes in America that we are experiencing today, from the viewpoint of an historian. The following is an excerpt.

The Unpatriotic “Patriot Act”

The transition of the former United States of America from a liberal mass democracy into an intolerant, one-party oligarchy was not inevitable by any means. Single decisions by presidents and repeated choices by the former “Congress” that once represented citizens can be identified as turning points.

The most crucial was the panic-driven passage of the Patriot Act in 2001. That widely supported law removed most oversight from secret intelligence agencies, and allowed them to cooperate in ways that previous generations had foreseen could threaten the liberty of citizens — and even allow those agencies to turn into politicized secret police on the Soviet and East German model, not answerable to elected officials or the courts. And that of course is what happened, we know. But few spoke up at the time.

The introduction of secret, rubber-stamp courts which could overrule constitutional protections; the sharing of data about citizens collected by foreign intelligence agencies; the labeling of dissidents as “domestic extremists” — all these practices, now common in America, began with this law’s passage, by a cheering bipartisan majority.

The Un-American Russia Collusion Hoax

Likewise, we must identify the Barack Obama administration’s decision to take the weapon of surveillance and coercion their predecessors in the George W. Bush White House had forged, and turn it against their domestic political opponents.

The most obvious outcome of that decision was the lame-duck Obama/Biden White House’s resolve to use the FBI against the incoming, legitimately elected Donald Trump administration. Today we are unsurprised when the North American regime uses law enforcement to suppress political opponents with false charges of treason. But such political behavior was once unheard of, during the “constitutional phase” of American government.

The Cowardly Failure of All Our Leaders

Each fork in the road that led to autocracy made reversing course more difficult and unlikely. But given political courage, the popularly elected Congress could have stalled and reversed the process at several points. Of course, it could have repealed the Patriot Act when whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden exposed its worst abuses.

President Donald Trump, while still in office, could have conducted a campaign against the “Deep State” actors who had paralyzed his presidency using information it knew to be false. He could have insisted on vetoing any funding bill which included the money to keep such agencies running, as leverage for a deep-cleaning reform of them.

The Republican party, as the chief victim of these political abuses, could have rallied against the growing power of appointed, unfireable intelligence agents. But for various reasons, none of these things occurred.

Selling the Power of the Purse for 30 Pieces of Silver

If we truly wish to identify the “point of no return” after which a return to liberal democracy and popular government in America became virtually impossible, we must look elsewhere. It is hard for us to credit today, but the Republican party actually controlled the “House of Representatives” for two key years of the Biden administration. During this period the “Durham Report” actually laid in detail how the “Deep State” had conspired to remove an elected president. Likewise, massive evidence emerged of miscarriages of justice (and FBI instigation) in the persecution of election integrity demonstrators on January 6, 2021.

The House, historians note, was intended by America’s liberty-conscious founders to serve as the ultimate “check and balance” against the abuse of power by the President, and even the nation’s courts. As we read in the writings of every faction among those Founders, the “power of the purse” was seen as the most important barrier to tyrannical government.

Those Founders were keen students of British history, and they noted that the central factor in Britain’s development of a constitutional monarchy run by Parliament was the total dependence of kings on Parliament for funding. They pointed to the fall and execution of King Charles I, who tried to govern without Parliament, as the test case of a legislature forestalling tyrannical rule.

Our Chiefs Sold Our Lands to the White Man for Wampum and Rum

So we must shake our heads at the decision of a Republican majority in 2023 (in particular) to continue without challenge funding these intelligence agencies — which targeted and threatened core groups whom the Republicans claimed to represent: conservatives, Christians, “pro-life” opponents of abortion, and parents who objected to Marxist or gay activist indoctrination in schools.

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Rarely in history do we see so blatant a failure of political leaders to champion those whom they rely on for support. The closest analog we can find is the decisions made by Native American chiefs in the 18th and 19th century, to sell off their tribe’s lands and rights, in return for a few gold coins and barrels of rum.

We might savor the irony that the country which gained so much land from the Indians in this manner ended up being destroyed by the very same tactic, applied to its own tribal leaders.

These Republicans who failed to protect either their voters or the Constitution were probably not directly bribed to make these choices. Most acted, it seems, out of political cowardice and short-term self-interest. They could not be seen to “shut down the government” if it meant closing popular national parks. Their names are all justly forgotten.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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