The Scenario (2016)
The Great Recession of the early twenty-first century lasts far longer
than anyone anticipated. After a change in control of the White House
and Congress in 2012, the governing party cuts off all funding that had
been dedicated to boosting the economy or toward relief. The United
States economy has flatlined, much like Japan’s in the 1990s, for the
better part of a decade. By 2016, the economy shows signs of
reawakening, but the middle and lower-middle classes have yet to
experience much in the way of job growth or pay raises. Unemployment
continues to hover perilously close to double digits, small businesses
cannot meet bankers’ terms to borrow money, and taxes on the middle
class remain relatively high. A high-profile and vocal minority has
directed the public’s fear and frustration at nonwhites and immigrants.
After almost ten years of race-baiting and immigrant-bashing by
right-wing demagogues, nearly one in five Americans reports being
vehemently opposed to immigration, legal or illegal, and even U.S.-born
nonwhites have become occasional targets for mobs of angry whites.
In May 2016 an extremist militia motivated by the goals of the “tea
party” movement takes over the government of Darlington, South Carolina,
occupying City Hall, disbanding the city council, and placing the mayor
under house arrest. Activists remove the chief of police and either
disarm local police and county sheriff departments or discourage them
from interfering. In truth, this is hardly necessary. Many law
enforcement officials already are sympathetic to the tea party’s agenda,
know many of the people involved, and have made clear they will not
challenge the takeover. The militia members are organized and have a
relatively well thought-out plan of action.
With Darlington under their control, militia members quickly move
beyond the city limits to establish “check points” – in reality,
something more like choke points -- on major transportation lines.
Traffic on I-95, the East Coast’s main north-south artery; I-20; and
commercial and passenger rail lines are stopped and searched, allegedly
for “illegal aliens.” Citizens who complain are immediately detained.
Activists also collect “tolls” from drivers, ostensibly to maintain
public schools and various city and county programs, but evidence
suggests the money is actually going toward quickly increasing stores of
heavy weapons and ammunition. They also take over the town web site
and use social media sites to get their message out unrestricted.
When the leaders of the group hold a press conference to announce their
goals, they invoke the Declaration of Independence and argue that the
current form of the federal government is not deriving its “just powers
from the consent of the governed” but is actually “destructive to these
ends.” Therefore, they say, the people can alter or abolish the
existing government and replace it with another that, in the words of
the Declaration, “shall seem most likely to effect their safety and