Dateline: The not-too-distant future:
It was a stalemate in Congress that initiated the collapse of governing authority, but the basic reasons for the incident goes back further than the unending bickering across party lines in the House and the Senate. Political scientists had already pointed to the computer-based gerrymandering that established uncontested House districts packed reliable voters of one party or the other all across the country. Their safe seats made it easier for these incumbents of either party to push further to the right or left, confident that they couldn't be challenged by an opposition candidate.
And then there was the money in politics and all of the tax-exempt organizations pushing their agendas. It was the nature of these platforms that they grew more and more extreme in an effort to attract attention and followers. They demanded ideological purity and were not afraid to attack their own leaders, should they veer from the extreme policies the organization demanded. As one side ramped up its criticisms, the other side followed suit. These criticisms escalated as the opposing factions' words devolved into personal attacks against their antagonists. Soon, neither side would even consider compromise because compromise came to be viewed as weakness, or even betrayal. Compromise had become a slanderous term.
The sharply divided Congress could not pass a budget, or even a continuing resolution to keep the government afloat, so a partial shutdown led to a broader shutdown with layoffs of thousands of federal workers. The economy began to crumble without the hundreds of billions of dollars of federal salaries and contracts. Restless laid-off federal workers turned bitter and angry. Soon, some of them turned violent. Acts of sabotage against government agencies began. Peaceful protests against the shutdown turned violent, and bank robberies, as well as other forms of thievery, rose suddenly. Understaffed police could not stop or even investigate these crimes, which multiplied exponentially.
Then the debt ceiling impasse forced the United States into default, and the American crisis spread around the world. International trade collapsed because sellers were afraid to accept suddenly suspect American dollars. Banks shuttered their doors, and government deposit insurance in several countries could not meet its obligations. Individuals lost their life savings. Pension funds stopped paying benefits, and Social Security's inflated dollars were not enough to buy food for retirees.
The Constitutional Convention called for by a bipartisan group of senators seemed to be a sensible remedy, but it, too, collapsed into bickering. The group proposing the Constitutional Convention saw it as a way to get the decision-making process away from Congress, which was no longer functioning. The bipartisans proposed just two changes to the 225-plus-year-old Constitution: A clarification that the First Amendment's free speech rights applied to individuals, not to corporations; and a new amendment requiring that congressional districts be drawn by independent bipartisan panels without consideration of incumbents. The thought was that these two changes would eliminate the dominance of political debate by corporations, unions and political action committees, and nonpartisan redistricting would make the U.S. House competitive again, forcing compromises.
It didn't work. The Constitutional Convention was taken over by a secretive group that wrote a new convention eliminating all federal departments except Defense and State and eliminating all of the Bill of Rights except the Second Amendment. The convention also struck the 14th Amendment but retained the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery and the 15th and 19th Amendments granting the right to vote to non-whites and women. It also eliminated the Supreme Court and made federal judgeships elective offices with two-year terms. In the end, the new constitution failed to win ratification by three-fourths of the states, several of whom no longer had a functioning legislature.
By then, much of North America and Europe had become ungoverned with well-armed survivalists ruling small areas and subsistence farmers desperately trying to hold onto the food they had grown for their families against bands of urban marauders roaming rural areas for food and supplies.