June 14, 2005

The Real Lesson of “Star Wars”

YodaThe most politically relevant quote from Star Wars is not Senator Palpatine’s ultimatum, “You are either with me, or you are my enemy.” Nor is it Amidala’s observation: "So this is how liberty dies—with thunderous applause."

While both lines resonate, even more apropos are the words of Master Yoda, who warned, “Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to Suffering.”

Fear (or more appropriately, terror), anger (stirred up by divisive religious issues), and hatred (of imaginary enemies, like the liberal “elite”) pushed a significant portion of the electorate to support policies—often unwittingly—that are good for a tiny sliver of rich elite, but bad for almost everyone else. But though some of these voters have been manipulated, the generous and inventive American spirit is still alive in their hearts.

Democrats, too, have strayed from Yoda’s path. The talented New Republic columnist (and former Michigan Daily writer) Jonathan Chait spoke for many when he confessed his hatred of George Bush last September. And in the cultural war that is ravaging our country, many people on both sides of the ideological divide hate—or think they hate—those on the other. Even some loyal readers of this blog simmer with vitriol when they think of the state our country is in. Sometimes I do too.

In politics, as in Star Wars, the dark side is represented by power-corrupted leaders who are masters of carefully planned deception. These leaders eventually find themselves saying, “if only those common fools could understand the decisions I’m making.” But the common people do understand, and eventually the corrupt politicians fall. However, it’s not an automatic process. It requires a strong news media, or in its absence, an effective opposition.

Which brings us back to the films. In “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” as Luke walks into the Emperor’s trap, he senses the love buried in Anakin’s heart. It is this love—and I’m really sorry to spoil the movie for you—that leads Anakin to turn on the Emperor and thus reject the Dark Side of the Force.

There is a practical lesson here. Just as Luke did not defeat the Emperor by attacking Anakin, Democratic leaders will not win elections by attacking those who have been duped into voting for power-hungry politicians. Rather, Democrats must provide a positive, alternative vision—while staying on guard against the dark side.

By Will Friedman in Politics | Permalink  | 


Very true - Democratic leaders must have something to offer. At the same time, there are so many voters whose values are defined by what they oppose, rather than what they support. Unfortunatly, I have been one of those. I was never so motivated until I was inspired by the evil of the Bush administration to act. So, perhaps the must appeal to what voters notice the most: the good things to which they aspire, and the bad things which they must avoid.

Posted by: SheaNC | Jun 14, 2005 8:23:21 PM

Me too--I was a registered Republican and voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries. But I voted for Gore in the presidential over Bush because Bush's policies were too scary, and because Bush was so inarticulate. I think many people have been motivated to get involved because we OPPOSE Bush, rather than because we support someone else. But that was a problem with Kerry too, many of us supported him because he was against Bush, not because we were particularly moved by him (until the debates). A leader like Bill Clinton rallies people together through positive ideas - and was a winner.

Posted by: Will | Jun 15, 2005 2:05:54 PM

(. . .I am still trying to recover from the fact that you were a registered Republican. . .)

Posted by: dks | Jun 15, 2005 5:42:14 PM

Ha ha. A good friend of mine, who is very anti-republican (he's more of an anarchist) was a registered republican for a while so he could vote in their primaries to try to prevent them from nominating lunatics! (Um... it didn't work)

Posted by: SheaNC | Jun 15, 2005 7:43:32 PM

Actually, never having been interested in politics, I was really a supporter of neither party. But I liked McCain, so I had to register with his party to vote for him. Knowing what I know now, I would not vote for him.

Posted by: Overseas Will | Jun 16, 2005 12:33:59 AM

Star Wars is so much like what we see everyday in reality. There is however a lot of good and bad in both parties.

Posted by: Blog Party | Jun 25, 2005 10:16:28 AM

Spoiler alert: OK if you're my age (24) and you haven't seen all 6 Star Wars movies by now, you've had 20+ years to do so, so don't blame me for ruining it for you.

Now that's out of the way, I think there is a corollary to your thesis. Vader/Anakin finally turned against the emperor only when the emperor was about to destroy the 1 thing that was still precious to him: his son, Luke. In fact, Luke, in desperation, reaches out to Vader in hopes that Anakin's love as a father will break through. If you want to draw a political lesson from this, I think it's that liberals must emphasize that those being hurt most by the Bush agenda are neighbors, friends, and family. It's not enough to paint broad strokes about Bush's bad policies, we have to show the details - how it's hurting the people we (no matter Republican or Democrat) care about most.

Posted by: WL | Jun 25, 2005 10:54:02 PM

WL is right- I know people who are no longer talking because Bush has divided this country so. I rarely speak to certain members of my family from Ohio anymore. I've just recently remembered that not all gops are evil with Senator Voinovich's siding with dems and similar acts of bipartisanship. We've all been quite blinded in the last four years because this admin is so hateful toward dissenters. I hope Rove's recent remarks are the peak of this hatred and that people see he is just trying to blame the admin's failures in Iraq on the left because they don't want to take responsibility (as usual.)

This is a great blog. I'm jealous that you are in Paris, but I am fairly content in DC these days. I used to live in Luxembourg and spent many weekends in Paris, and reading your blog incites nostalgia and a vague restlessness that makes me wish I were there right now. BUT- there are evil dark forces in Washington that I must help defeat!


Posted by: Daedalus | Jun 26, 2005 10:36:45 AM

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