If Donald Trump manages to stay out of jail long enough to win the next presidential election, there’s a devious plan in place to reshape the entire U.S. system of checks and balances from the ground up to bend to his will. Left-leaning pencil pushers will be forced out to make room for new lackeys, and entire independent agencies will be brought to heel. The so-called Deep State (an alleged alliance of influential-but-unelected bureaucrats and military leaders who secretly control the country regardless of who the president is) will be no more, and Trump will finally make America great again.
It’s a terrifying scenario for anyone but Trump’s most passionate supporters. But... is it also maybe a political strategy that Luke, Leia, and Han should have considered when they were creating the New Republic? Or, put another way: Does the Star Wars galaxy have a Deep State problem?
Light spoilers for Ahsoka Episodes 1 and 2 ahead.
The latest entry in the Star Wars saga, Ahsoka takes place in the aftermath of the original trilogy but many decades before the Disney-spawned sequel movies. It’s the same unexplored corner of franchise canon that The Mandalorian has mined to much success: a semi-lawless era where a newly reformed Republic attempts to reclaim control of the galaxy — with mixed results.
As history can tell you, one of the biggest problems with trying to transition from one type of rule to another is convincing all your citizens that this new system is actually better. There were American supporters of England in early U.S. history. And there are people in Texas who still think the Confederacy had some good ideas. And it turns out, there are people in that galaxy far away who still support Emperor Palpatine. (Don’t forget, the Empire was always a metaphor for America, according to George Lucas.)
In Episode 2 of Ahsoka, the eponymous hero visits a shipyard where old Imperial warships are taken apart for scraps to build a New Republic fleet. As we learn, the facility employs a lot of the same people who built those original Empire ships. But, as their foreman claims, these people don’t care who’s paying their salary as long as they get paid.
Of course, this turns out to be a lie. The foreman and most of his employees are secretly Empire loyalists who help the bad guys steal a giant hyperdrive engine as part of their evil plan. Turns out, taking down Palpatine was the easy part. If the New Republic wants to survive (spoiler alert: they don’t; see The Force Awakens for more details), they may need to consider a more dramatic personnel shift.
This isn’t the first time Star Wars has explored similar themes. The Mandalorian Season 3 took a detour to explore the lives of ex-Imperial soldiers working in a New Republic amnesty program (only to reveal that not all of them were as reformed as they claimed). And the popular animated series Star Wars Rebels revealed how the Empire won over its new citizens in the first place — mostly by offering money and stability.
For almost half a century, the story of Star Wars has mostly focused on the mythical Skywalker clan and the characters that surround them. But while one person can bring down the system, it takes an entire population to keep one going (whether that system is democratic, fascist, or somewhere in between). With Ahsoka, the franchise reminds us that these overlooked people can change the course of history just as easily as the “main character,” and that changing the name on their paycheck isn’t always enough to win their loyalty in the long term.
The Deep State in America may be an overblown myth and a convenient boogeyman for Trump and his cronies. But in the world of Star Wars, there’s no denying that the Empire’s grip didn’t exactly loosen when Palpatine fell down that reactor shaft. And if the inevitable next Republic actually wants to succeed, they might want to consider bringing in some new employees to build their ships.