What’s big, flashy, poorly assembled and vulnerable to a diverse coalition of foes?
U.S. President Donald Trump‘s campaign appears to have embraced a Star Wars-related metaphor for his 2020 re-election effort in the form of the second Death Star, the evil Empire’s failed superweapon from Return of the Jedi.
“For nearly three years we have been building a juggernaut campaign (Death Star),” Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 campaign manager, tweeted on Thursday morning. “It is firing on all cylinders. Data, Digital, TV, Political, Surrogates, Coalitions Etc. In a few days we start pressing FIRE for the first time.”
The tweet included a GIF of the second Death Star firing its planet-killing super laser.
Many Twitter users were quick to point out the rich irony in Parscale’s tweet, particularly after he echoed the words of evil Emperor Palapatine in Return of the Jedi.
“Now, witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station,” the Emperor says near the end of the film, just before he orders the unfinished Death Star to start blasting Rebel ships.
The Rebels ultimately destroyed the Death Star by flying into the gaping hole on its side, because the Empire rushed the superweapon into combat before construction was complete.
The first Death Star destroyed exactly one planet before it was blown up in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The second Death Star was larger and only destroyed a few spaceships.
“Who chooses to portray themselves as the Death Star?” lawyer Barb McQuade asked in response to the tweet.
“Brad, this is a great comparison,” Death Star PR, a tongue-in-cheek Twitter account, wrote in a retweet. “The Death Star is too big to fail! Nothing could possibly go wrong.”
Star Wars screenwriter Gary Whitta, who worked on Rogue One, tried to point out the implications of Parscale’s tweet.
“You do understand that the people who built the Death Star were the bad guys, right?” he tweeted. “Also they lost.”
Rob Flaherty, the digital director for Trump’s presumptive 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, also showed up to mock the tweet.
“Got a fun story for you about what happens to the Death Star,” Flaherty wrote.
“Dude, the Death Star gets blown up at the end of every Star Wars movie,” wrote MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, one of Trump’s frequent targets on Twitter.
“Why don’t you brag about the Great Pumpkin rising from the pumpkin patch at the end of the campaign? As much money as you’ve grifted off of Trump, spend a few dollars streaming some movies.”
Many users suggested the name was in poor taste given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has caused more than 70,000 deaths in the United States.
“Nicknaming your presidential reelection campaign ‘Death Star’ in the middle of a pandemic that has already killed 70K+ people is an interesting choice,” one user wrote.
Parscale later tried to pull a Jedi mind trick by claiming that he didn’t coin the nickname, “the media did.” (In Star Wars, Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak-minded.)
“However, I am happy to use the analogy,” he wrote. “The fact is, we haven’t used it yet,” Parscale added, in response to his own tweet using the analogy.
Two stories published within the last year by Pro Publica and The Atlantic quote an unnamed “Republican strategist” referring to the campaign as a “Death Star.” Both stories focused primarily on Parscale.
It’s not the first time the Trump campaign has painted its own candidate as a villain on the verge of defeat.
Last winter, the Trump 2020 campaign shared an altered video from Avengers: Endgame, in which Trump’s face was edited onto supervillain Thanos’ body. The clip showed Trump as Thanos with the potentially universe-altering Infinity Stones on his glove, just before he attempts to snap all life out of existence.
“I am inevitable,” Thanos says, with Trump’s face superimposed over top. The clip then shows Trump’s Democratic opponents turning into dust.
The Trump campaign clip does not show the Avengers moment in its proper context. In the film, Thanos snaps his fingers impotently, only to realize that Iron Man has taken the stones away. Thanos dies moments later.
Trump fans responded to the Death Star tweet in much the same way they did the Thanos video: by claiming that the president is playing four-dimensional chess to outfox his critics.
The U.S. is six months away from the 2020 election, which will pit Trump against the presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.
The Trump campaign announced last weekend that it plans to fly a blimp over several swing states throughout the summer in an effort to collect data via text message replies, The Associated Press reports.
It’s unclear what the blimp will be called, but the Hindenburg is currently available.