The article: Nihilism Comes To America (CounterOrder)
The trope: EagleLand. It comes in two flavors, positive and negative. The positive one is the official doctrine of a cult, known variously as the Civil Religion and Americanism. The negative one, for those unseduced by the religion's siren song and who therefore remain objective, is the reality.
Face it: the United States of America is not and has never been a democracy, and was never intended to be one. An offshoot of the British Empire, it is an elitist representative republic founded by slaveholding aristocrats whose desire to rise within the English nobility was blocked by the established nobles themselves. This aristocratic republic was designed by and for aristocrats who wanted to build an empire, and did so. The empire it was intended from the beginning to replace was, of course, the British.
The problem: the Imperial Paradox — external expansion leads, directly and invariably, to internal decline.
The solution: save the American Empire by overthrowing the liberal oligarchic republic with a conservative dictatorship based on the cult of the nation. In other words, the Empire overthrows the Republic. In the Spanner backstory, this is called the Conservative Revolution. Its stronghold is the white-dominated rural "flyover country" sentimentalized as the Ideal by the national cult. Its predominantly urban opponents simply call it "the coup".
The cult does not just claim that the United States Federal Government is the Second Coming of Christ. It deifies a national narcissism that has its individual counterpart in the narcissism celebrated by the cult of celebrity as relentlessly marketed by the "fashion-industrial complex" (FIC). Spanner Book 2's "Pretty City Arc" focuses on the FIC and what it stands for.
The name of Book 2 is "Rage of the Prophets". This is what happens when the two factions of the all-powerful Conservative Revolutionary Party start feuding over which elite "is" America: the Empire's Corporate owners, or the priesthood of the Church of America, the national cult? The article linked above will help you understand the underlying issues. So will this article, in which Chris Hedges explains that the narcissistic American cult of "Rugged Individualism" is incompatible with not just freedom but America's survival itself. The Empire is destroying the nation.
This is part of the background of Spanner Book 2. I'm finishing the first draft for JulNoWriMo '11, and I'll post the first installment on October 23. Watch for it!