The reference is to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale which describes a future dysthopia where religious fundamentalists rule as dictators. Such a dictatorship didn't seem possible in the United States because of the law against using the military for purely domestic purposes and because of the fact that each state has its own local police force. Now this seems to be changing. From Talk Left, it appears that the Patriot Act will contain a proposal to establish a federal police force:
A permanent police force, to be known as the 'United States Secret Service Uniformed Division,'" empowered to "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence" ... "or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony."
I like that "without warrant" bit. So carefree and decisive.