Reflections on "Revenge of the Sith" and American Democracy

Many commentators have rushed to find paralells between Revenge of the Sith and the Bush Administration. While there are one or two (rather painful) lines of dialogue for which that comparison could be made, I believe that most of these commentators are missing a much more obvious and important political paralell: the role of the Galactic Senate.

I would assume that the members of the Galactic Senate are either (a) directly elected by the citizens of their planets or (b) chosen as Senators by a democratically-elected government (which the state legislatures used to do in the United States before a constitutional amendment provided for direct election of senators).

Throughout the movie, Chancellor Palpatine talks often of the fear that those with power have of losing that power. He is of course the prime example of this, and his desire to transform the Republic into an Empire is a direct outgrowth of this fear.

But is Palpatine solely to blame for this transformation and the loss of democracy? Hardly. Let us look to the Galactic Senate. In Episode II, the Republic is shaken to its core by the growth of the Separatist Movement (a movement begun by Palpatine's alter-ego, Darth Sidious). Threatened with war and possible dissolution of the Republic, the Senate virtually immediately votes the creation of a Clone Army, and grants extended powers to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to fight the Separatists — powers which he, naturally, offers to lay down when the "crisis" has passed. In Episode III, [spoiler alert!] after the war has dragged on for some time, and Palpatine's prediction that the Jedi Order would try to "overthrow" him and the Senate seems to have come to pass, the Senators consent to the destruction of the Jedi and the transformation of Republic into an Empire.

In other words, Palpatine becomes the Emperor through legal means. The democratically-elected members of the Republic's legislature consent to Palpatine's elevation and the destruction of democracy in the galaxy. Remember what Ben Kenobi said to Han Solo in Episode IV: "Who's the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?" The paralells to our own history are obvious: in 1933, for example, the democratically-elected Reichstag in Germany voted to hand all of its authority to Chancellor Hitler following the Reichstag fire, which Hitler blamed on Communists. Three European dictators of the 20th Century came to power legally, in fact: Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, either through the collussion or cowardice of parliament or the people.

Why would the Galactic Senate consent to this? I think that one reason is the desperate desire for peace, stability and order, which they evidently believed could not be secured through debate. But there is another reason, I think, a more sinister reason: the security of their own position and power. Consider this: the Senate remained a branch of the Imperial government for the next 19 years, until the Emperor disbanded the Senate permenantly in Episode IV. I would presume that no more elections were held in those 19 years, and the membership of the Senate had become frozen.

Therefore, by handing over power the Emperor, the sitting members of the Senate guarenteed that they, too, would stay in office and retain the status, privileges, and perks such office granted to them.

The significance of this in my mind is more important than any connections to George Bush. Both Democratic and Republican members of most state legislatures have begun openly redrawing congressional districts in order to insure the re-election of incumbents. Rather than create districts that cover roughly the same geographic area, or areas with roughly the same population, the Republicrats (as I call them) are seeking only to secure the re-election of their party fellows and eliminate competitive congressional races.

This is an anti-democratic policy, and no one seems to know about it, or care. Disgusting. It is time that we realize that we are living not in a democracy, but rather a self-perpetuating oligarchy. We have not two parties, but one party with two wings, both owned by the corporations and the wealthy. They have secured their dominance not only by "redistricting," but by making it nearly impossible for third parties to get on the ballot. The Republicrats have managed to erase from American elections the cornerstone of capitalist democracy: choice.

Why isn't anyone angry?

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