It happened gradually. Few noticed. Fewer complained. But here we are, on the cusp of totalitarianism. What's left of America is all about appearances.
The illusion of press freedom persists, but in reality the press speaks little truth, and much propaganda. The press isn't exactly controlled by the government, but the press and the government are in the same hands.
The illusion of democracy remains, too, but no recent election has offered a meaningful choice. Would things have been meaningfully different under President McCain? After all, he suspended his campaign to vote for the bailout, and campaigned for socialized medicine. Sure, there'd be a few more black Marxists stranded in academia, but what would really be different?
Then there's the facade of an independent judiciary looking out for our rights. Sure. What is the court, really, besides the mechanism by which the ruling class thwarts the public will? The court acts as a ministry of culture, imposing transformative laws like abortion, the elimination of gun rights and corporate control of vast areas of life that could never pass by an honest vote.
We have "democracy" that circumvents the will of the people, a "free" press in which only certain things are said, "education" wholly divorced from learning, a state war on religion, etc., etc., etc. We have handily demonstrated that if the masses of people have even vaguely comfortable lives, they will care about nothing else.
This vague comfort will soon be the only difference between the old USSR and the present USA. Pathetic, isn't it? But for the fact that the Soviets never quite managed the comfort part, we're damn near the same. We're succeeding, where the Soviet Union failed.