I'm off to do a reading in a few hours, and it's chilly outside, so I feel like turning up the heat. Therefore:
My view of contemporary US politics, which is that of an outsider and obviously incomplete (and possibly faulty, and subject to change) is as follows:
1. The USA is already a functional oligarchy. (Or, more accurately, a plutarchy.) It has been functioning as such for some time — since 1992 at the latest, although the roots of this system go back to before the Declaration of Independence — it's a recurrent failure mode. Historically such periods last for a few years then go into reverse. However, this time the trend has been running since 1980 or even earlier. What we're now seeing are the effects of mismanagement by the second generation of oligarchs in power; the self-entitled who were born to it and assume it to be the natural order of things.
2. It's impossible to be elected to high office without so much money that anyone in high office is, by definition, part of the 0.1%; even if they're an outsider to start with, they will be co-opted by the system (or neutralized — usually before they are elected).
3. Public austerity is a great cover for the expropriation of wealth by the rich (by using their accumulated capital to go on acquisition sprees for assets being sold off for cents on the dollar by the near-bankrupt state). But public austerity is a huge brake on economic growth because it undermines demand by impoverishing consumers. Consequently, we're in for another long depression. (The outcome of this new long depression will be the same as that of the first one: the main industrial power — then it was the UK; now it's the USA — will lose a lot of its remaining economic lead over its competitors and be severely weakened.)
4. Starving poor people with guns and nothing to lose scare the rich; their presence in large numbers is one major component of a pre-revolutionary situation.
5. Worse, the poor have smartphones. (Or will, within another couple of years. By 2020, today's iPhone 4S will be a cereal-packet-freebie grade toy. $10 for an equally powerful device, sold on a pre-pay tariff, via WalMart.) Which means a former constraint on civil unrest (media channels are expensive to run, so the oligarchy can maintain an effective choke-hold on mass media while trumpeting their support for freedom of speech) no longer holds true. See also the "Twitter revolution" (RIP) in Iran.
6. The oligarchs are therefore pre-empting the pre-revolutionary situation by militarizing the police (as guard labour). Note also that the prison-industrial complex remains profitable as long as there's a tax base on which to pay for the prison guards — or to use as collateral for loans to cover the guards' wages.
7. Modern communications technologies (including the internet) provide people with a limitless channel for self-expression (not to mention distraction— endless circuses without the bread). They also provide the police state with a limitless flow of intelligence about the people. Note also that it's possible to not merely listen in on mobile phone calls, but to use a mobile phone as a GPS-aware bugging device, and (with a bit more smarts) to have it report on physical proximity (within bluetooth range — about 20 feet) to other suspects. The flip side of social networking is that the police state knows all your acquaintances.
8. So I infer that the purpose of SOPA is to close the loop, and allow the oligarchy to shut down hostile coordinating sites as and when the anticipated revolution kicks off. Piracy/copyright is a distraction -- those folks pointing to similarities to Iranian/Chinese net censorship regimes are correct, but they're not focussing on the real implication (which is a ham-fisted desire to be able to shut down large chunks of the internet at will, if and when it becomes expedient to do so).
(Obligatory supplemental reading: The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod.)
What am I missing?