The ninth and (allegedly) final chapter of this Star Wars story, The Rise of Skywalker, poses a familiar challenge for our heroes: The bad guys are in power, and the fate of the galaxy depends on the Resistance’s ability to defeat them. But let’s not overlook what will happen after that. If the Resistance is able to defeat the First Order, they’ll need to reestablish a government. And that’s not something the good guys have historically been too good at.
Time for a history lesson. Thousands of years before The Phantom Menace and the events of the Clone Wars, the Old Republic served as the galaxy’s central governing body. Based on the planet Coruscant—also home to the Jedi order—the Old Republic slowly grew its influence. It often waged wars against competing Sith Empires, and nearly eradicated the dark side’s formal presence during a Sith purge that led to the institution of the Rule of Two—an edict that only two Sith lords, a master and an apprentice, may be in existence at a time. Eventually, about a thousand years before The Phantom Menace, the Old Republic became known as the Galactic Republic, which ruled as a parliamentary democracy, with a senate (remember the big room with the weird disc modules where Yoda and Palpatine battled?) led by a chancellor.
During the Clone Wars, Sheev Palpatine of Naboo was named chancellor and, in a twist no one in the Jedi order saw coming—seriously guys, what the hell—reorganized the government into the Galactic Empire, with himself in command. Palpatine, of course, was actually a Dark Lord of the Sith, known to his apprentices as Darth Sidious. Nineteen years after he ordered the destruction of the Jedi order in an event known as the Great Jedi Purge, the Emperor, facing sporadic revolts from precocious rebels, dissolved the senate and empowered regional governors to keep the peace.
A few destroyed Death Stars and some weird father-son moments later, the Rebellion took down the Empire, and all was well in the galaxy. Except for the part where no one knew how to run a government. As my colleague Michael Baumann wrote after the pilot episode of The Mandalorian, five years after the fall of the Empire, the New Republic still didn’t have a strong standard currency. The titular character completes a single transaction in both Calamari flan (the legal tender of the Mon Calamari civilization) and Imperial credits, which hadn’t been in circulation in half a decade.
What happened in the three decades between the end of the Empire and the rise of the First Order is mostly unknown, but the fact that there wasn’t an established central currency of note that long after the Empire’s collapse speaks to the New Republic’s failures in leadership. We know that the New Republic used some sort of senate, but the provisional governments set up after Palpatine’s demise were powerless. Apart from a deleted scene in The Force Awakens that shows Leia sending an envoy to meet with Republic officials (remember those people you saw getting blown up by Starkiller Base? That was the government), the New Republic had never been depicted in film.
This brings us to “current” day, just before the happenings of The Rise of Skywalker. In summary: Somehow, in a few years, loyalists and sympathizers of the Empire escalated a cold war with the Republic into an actual one and accrued enough capital, support, and firepower to build a giant laser inside a planet, destroy the government, elevate its head honcho to Supreme Leader, and put the Resistance—the only fighting shot anyone has of stopping them, helmed by the same people who beat the Empire and were theoretically in charge of making sure they’d stayed beaten—on the run.
Look, I get it. Winning power is (relatively) easy. Keeping it and doing good with it is hard. But that’s twice in the past half-century that the “good guys” have ceded power incredibly quickly to angsty dudes in masks. Assuming the Resistance finds a way to best the First Order in the final installment of the Skywalker saga, here are a few ways they can avoid screwing everything up a third time.
Re-establish a senate
I’m going to come out and say something controversial: fascism? Pretty bad. Both the Galactic and New Republics did well to establish a senate. Local and planetary governance is essential to survival in any context, but regional representation allows for economic, military, and political success on the whole. Think of the senate as the United Nations. Its predecessor, the League of Nations, was awful, partly because it had no real authority. A strong central government built by the people and for the people, justified and backed up by member planets and systems, would serve as the tentpole for galactic democracy.
And while you’re at it, maybe bring back the Jedi order. But loosen the rules a little. Anakin ruined the galaxy because he was sweet on a queen. Kylo did it because Luke couldn’t handle the little hate in his heart. Stop being such sticklers and maybe you won’t keep finding yourselves in positions of weakness.
Have a central authority, but employ checks and balances
The Galactic Republic employed a chancellor to lead the senate, and it worked to some success before they, you know, appointed literally the most evil person in the galaxy to the position. Mon Mothma was a beloved revolutionary and the New Republic’s first leader. But after she retired, the Republic was thrown into chaos. None of her successors were able to keep the confederation together, and progress sputtered. Like the split in the United States between the Federalists and Antifederalists, the New Republic experienced its own schism after Mothma stepped down, with two factions gaining strength. The Populists supported regional autonomy, while the Centrists wanted a strong central government and a larger military.
The new government will need someone strong and resourceful, but not too powerful, to lead the way. In a world where history repeats itself and everything seems centered on a dynastic family, a central authority with a number of checks seems reasonable. Giving the senate veto authority over the chancellor is a good start, as is the introduction of a courts system to interpret law and adjudicate disputes. Balance is the basis for any functioning democracy, parliamentary or otherwise.
Immediately adopt a common currency
Baumann perfectly explained the issues with not having a strong central currency for The Ringer earlier this winter:
A government without a common currency is perilously and unnecessarily unstable, which was one of the chief failings of the Articles of Confederation in the early days of the United States, and one reason the European Union created the Euro. A common currency allows the government to set a centralized monetary policy and erases barriers to trade and commerce within the government’s jurisdiction.
The successor to the New Republic would be smart to avoid this pitfall. I know this story happens “a long time ago,” but it doesn’t have to adhere to the common timeline of monetary policy. The first new currency shouldn’t be guaranteed under the gold or silver standards. Greenbacks work fine. Just make sure they’re justified by the power of a strong central government, and everything will (probably) be OK.
Don’t totally neuter your ability to fight back
No one should want to wage war, and most people don’t want to. It’s brutal and expensive, both in terms of loss of life and capital. Shortly after the Empire fell, the New Republic believed itself in a time of lasting peace, and passed the Military Disarmament Act, severely reducing the size of its fleet. This, in turn, left the Republic vulnerable to attack.
I’m not suggesting the Republic should have a massive standing army, but the re-re-establishment of the Jedi order should provide the Republic with experienced combat generals, and an army reserve is essential for maintaining the peace. In addition to its problems regarding currency, the Articles of Confederation failed early America because while Congress had the ability to regulate and fund the Continental Army, it couldn’t compel member states to participate. So when uprisings like Shays’ Rebellion happened in Massachusetts, the government was ill prepared to fight back. Thankfully, that insurrection led to the constitutional convention, and the ensuing governing document righted the original’s wrong.
The New New Republic can learn from their mistakes. The bad guys hid away twice before reappearing to win the day. Expect the worst and be ready to fight back.
For the love of all that is good, invest in a Galactic CIA
The first time the Republic was toppled, it was because an army of omnipotent, damn-near psychic, sword-wielding monks couldn’t detect that the literal worst person alive—for whom they’d been searching for eons, mind you—was at the head of their government. I understand the Jedi are supposed to be keepers of the peace, but they’re also supposed to be wise. It’s downright laughable that they weren’t able to figure out that Palpatine was a Sith lord until he outed himself to Anakin and then slaughtered a few masters with ease.
This is a world where technology has created floating cars, humanlike androids so astute they can be used both as translators and as soldiers, and ships that can fly at the speed of light. Y’all telling me you can’t bug an office? The American government can’t go more than a year without shutting down because it can’t pass a budget, and it’s been spying on foreign and domestic leaders for decades. Who cares that you can search your feelings for answers if you can’t wiretap galactic terrorists (with properly legal justification and oversight, of course)?
The CIA and similar institutions worldwide have myriad issues and dark histories that are worth acknowledging and reckoning with. But in this context, and in a world where the Republic consistently is bested and toppled by a handful of bad actors, maybe it makes sense to create an intelligence-gathering body. Just please, no enhanced interrogation techniques. Not even hunting Sith lords justifies acting like Dick Cheney.