How Did The First Order Seize Control So Quickly?
One of the things that’s left slightly unclear in the new Star Wars films is the political state of the Galaxy. After The Force Awakens, are the First Order in power now? How did that happen? We’ll break it down.
One of the reasons the Empire was able to take such control of the Galaxy was that The Clone Wars ruined so many lives, and decimated so many planets that people were willing to give up some freedoms in exchange for relative peace and security. The Empire didn’t go into full brutal tyranny mode right away, it slowly extended its influence until it was already too late to stop. Smaller, poorer planets suffered the most, while rich planets loyal to the Empire often did much better than they did under the Republic (or at least the ruling elite did better).
Under this environment, the Alliance to Restore The Republic (aka The Rebel Alliance) was born. They rose up, challenged the Empire and eventually won. They blew up the Death Star, killed Palpatine and slowly won the war with the remnants of the the Empire. The final battle between the Alliance and the remnants of the Empire was fought over Jakku about 4 years after the second Death Star was blown up. The Empire was finally defeated (or at least pushed into submission) and the New Republic was formed by the leaders of the Alliance to Restore The Republic.
By that time many beings had lived through 2 massive Galactic Wars, and the members of the New Republic wanted to stop a war from breaking out ever again. Do do this, they changed the way the Republic would work. Firstly, The New Republic would be largely demilitarized. Secondly individual planetary systems would be given a greater degree of autonomously than they had under the pre-Empire Republic. They hoped by not having too much central control, the New Republic would never again slowly morph into an Empire.
Over 20 or so years, the Republic worked to guide the Galaxy in a fair direction. But it wasn’t perfect, without much central control evil could flourish unchecked in some corners of the Galaxy and many planets struggled to hold their own on such a large galactic stage. Some began to wonder if a more central control wouldn’t help the Galaxy at large. Could they take the good things from Palpatines Empire and remove the bad?
This was a big split in the Republic Senate between Populists, who think that Systems should be largely independent, and Centralists, who favor a stronger galactic government and a more powerful military.
Leia almost wins out for the Populists, but is outed as Darth Vaders daughter and ostracized by the Senate. As the Senate argues about which way they should lead the Galaxy, many take matters into their own hands. Wealthy Centralist systems start secretly funding The First Order and planning to restore the Empire (or a version of it) to the Galaxy.
Other systems secretly fund their own military – The Resistance – to fight against this secret plot. Over the next few years the First Order amasses a truly MASSIVE Navy, much bigger than the Resistance ever expected (Remember how shocked Poe was when he was first exposed to the size of the First Order?)
After the First Order destroyed the New Republic Senate, the Galaxy is left largely undefended. The New Republic never had a official military, and the Resistance was much smaller and poorly funded than it needed to be.
The Galaxy has been going through a chaotic time, with a disjointed leadership and a threat growing on the sidelines. Once the New Republic was destroyed, the First Order has only to use its massive military fleet to take control of the Systems that were loyal to the New Republic. Many of the powerful systems have been secretly funding the First Order and were just waiting for its power to be fully unveiled.