Remember when Emperor Palpatine told everyone that the Jedi tried to murder him, and an entire democratic government just... believed him? Framing the Jedi as turncoat killers takes less than 10 minutes in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. But, as The Clone Wars just revealed, there's actually a legit reason why such a huge part of the population went along with this reasoning.
Growing distrust of the Jedi happened way before Palpatine framed them and then killed them all via Order 66. In the latest episode of The Clone Wars, "Gone Without a Trace," Ahsoka Tano comes face to face with the origin of Jedi prejudice.
Spoilers for Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 5 ahead.
After finding herself in the lower levels of the planet Coruscant, specifically, level 1313, Ahsoka is desperate to hide her identity as a former member of the Jedi Order, and with very good reason. It turns out that poor and disenfranchised citizens living down here don't like the Jedi. Like, not at all. When Ahsoka meets the mechanic Trace, she says this when she finds out Ahsoka fled from her life above:
"I'm sure you have your problems up there with the Jedi running around and starting wars, policing everything."
From the perspective of Trace, the Jedi are just as bad as what the Empire will eventually become. She doesn't see the Jedi doing much to help poor people who live literally just next door to the Jedi Temple. All she hears about is folks with lightsabers screwing over the rest of the galaxy, and basically, ruining day-to-day life for people trying to get by with what they have.
From an objective point of view, you could argue that The Clone Wars isn't really the Jedi's fault, but if we side with Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, that line of argumentation falls apart. To Luke's point, it was the hubris of the Jedi that allowed the Emperor to seize power in the first place. And even though Trace doesn't have all the information (nobody ever does in Star Wars), she's closer to the objective truth than Ahsoka. Even though the ex-Jedi knows first hand exactly how corrupt the Jedi can be, her knee-jerk response here is to defend them, arguing that the Jedi are trying to end the Clone Wars.
Trace counters by telling Ahsoka that it doesn't really matter, which again, is more in line with Luke's reasoning, several decades after the fact. The Jedi didn't have to be at fault to also still be part of the problem.
The new piece of information in this scene is compelling because it proves there's a pretty big chunk of working-class people in the Star Wars galaxy — and even on Coruscant — who are primed not to trust the Jedi. One way to read this is that Palpatine's plan was perfect and that creating distrust of the Jedi was the point.
The other way to read it is more interesting. This is a moment where Star Wars becomes more realistic and self-critical. The Jedi were wrong and they did have a choice.
If you only watch the Star Wars films, you get the impression that most people in the galaxy dislike dictatorships and hated the Empire from the moment it got going. But, as Trace's perspective demonstrates, that's not entirely true. In the moments just before the Empire was formed, plenty of people were sick of the Clone Wars, which were seemingly the fault of the Jedi. There are echoes of this in The Mandalorian too, where it's very clear that Mando's clan doesn't have great feelings about the Jedi "sorcerers."
Bottomline. Without the Jedi's implicit support of the war, there is no war. Normal, everyday people see this fact, and, as a result, dislike nearly everything the Jedi stand for. So, when Palpatine raises his arms and forms the "First Galactic Empire," it makes a ton of sense as to why so many people went along with it.
Padmé Amidala said, "This is how liberty dies. To thunderous applause." But, as The Clone Wars proved, before that happened, you had plenty of poor people struggling to get by under Jedi rule — and they were all really sick of hearing about lightsabers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars drops new episodes on Fridays on Disney+.