This past month, we have witnessed the resumption of two of America’s greatest dramas: the presidential election and Game of Thrones. Given the show’s focus on the unique and human personalities that populate its cutthroat and megalomaniacal world -- and its obvious parallels to our own -- I thought that it was about time that we compared our favorite Thrones characters to their real-life counterparts.
For those of you who are spoiler-conscious, events up through episode 3 of season 5 of Game of Thrones are referred to.
1. Hillary Clinton – Tyrion Lannister
“Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
The Clintons, much like the Lannisters, have held a large hold on the power and wealth in American politics even without holding the highest office for over sixteen years now. However, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is channeling her inner Tyrion by taking the advice he gave bastard Jon Snow in the very first episode of Game of Thrones. Mrs. Clinton will not be allowed to forget that she is a Clinton. The side effects of having the past twenty years of her life saved in sound bites are painful – she must, therefore, “wear it like armor.” Even though she is routinely criticized for it, Mrs. Clinton should and must employ her past experience with D.C. politics and America’s power players -- she’s going to be portrayed as a Beltway insider no matter what she does, so why not take advantage of all the benefits that that has to offer? This means that she must embrace her experience as Secretary of State wholeheartedly -- something that she already does. And given that it will be impossible to avoid Benghazi-related headlines during her campaign (especially if she actually does appear in front of Congress, which House Republican leaders have been clamoring to make happen), by acknowledging its presence and wearing it like armor, Clinton can mitigate the bumps on the campaign trail that Republicans will be sure to highlight by focusing on the accomplishments of her tenure.
2. Ted Cruz – Jon Snow
“I swore a vow to the Night's Watch. If I don't take my own word seriously what sort of "Lord of Winterfell" would I be?”
There’s no denying that Texas Senator Ted Cruz has Snow-like loyalty to his conservatism and anti-establishment platform. However, in order for him to have a fighting chance in the Republican primary, Cruz must unite the Republican Party’s anti-establishment bloc. This population is divided into “Christian conservatives, libertarians and Tea Party voters angry with the leadership of both parties”, much like the diaspora of the Wildlings, Night’s Watchmen, and Stannis Baratheon’s troops. Jon Snow must unite them in order to defend Westeros from the White Walkers. Mr. Cruz, like the Bastard of Winterfell, has an almost unbreakable will but is faced with uniting a scattered and divided electorate -- made up of evangelicals, Tea Partiers, and moderate conservatives -- in his pursuit of victory. Also, like Snow, family issues could get in the way of Mr. Cruz’s possible nomination. Mr. Cruz stands as the most outspoken critic of gay marriage and abortion rights in the Republican primary - but with sixty-one percent of Republicans ages 18-29 favoring gay marriage, his stance will take some of the crucial young, anti-establishment votes away from him. Will he and Jon Snow stick with their principles for the sake of their own honor, or deviate from them in order to achieve a tremendous goal?
3. Jeb Bush – Daenerys Targaryen
"You're both here to advise me. I value your advice, but if you ever question me in front of strangers again, you'll be advising someone else. Is that understood?"
Similar to Mrs. Clinton, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is cursed/blessed with a famous last name. He has, however, kept a fair bit of distance between his office in Tallahassee and the Bush-occupied White House – a distance that could be compared to Westeros and Meereen. Public opinion surrounding former President George W. Bush makes his advice to his younger brother best given behind closed doors (he’s even admitted that he is his younger brother’s biggest problem). The younger Bush should take the Khaleesi’s advice and listen to the counsel of his experienced family, but maintain his independence in the eyes of the public. Regardless of how he goes about his campaign, the Houses of Targaryen (Bush) and Lannister (Clinton) should provide one interesting battle of minds, resources, and allies.
4. Rand Paul – Mance Rayder
"All I've ever wanted was the freedom to make my own mistakes."
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul adds to the list of prodigal sons entering the race. While he shares his party alignment with his famous, libertarian father, Mr. Paul is clearly trying to distance himself. Branding himself as a more centered libertarian, Mr. Paul is attempting to tap into the "free folk" nature of the Republican base while not alienating them all together. When push comes to shove, however, it’s likely Mr. Paul would be willing to burn at the stake (a.k.a. the Cleveland Republican National Convention) for his freedom than cave in for the Republican leadership. Not to mention, Ted Cruz would be all too happy to deliver that merciful arrow.
5. Marco Rubio – Robb Stark
"I've won every battle. But I'm losing this war."
Rubio’s bid for the presidency, like Stark’s pursuit of the Iron Throne, is commonly referred to as a “logical next step” and is recognized by many as the right person to succeed to the presidency. However, his issue is one of positioning. Jeb Bush, the Targaryen of our Washington scenario, got a head start on Rubio in regards to public opinion and elite donor support. The Bush name has lingered in America like the Targaryen dynasty lingers in the minds of the citizens of Westeros - unfortunately, the Rubio name has taken a back seat. At the end of the day, many wonder why they would take a young, inexperienced albeit talented candidate over an experienced, well funded Bush. It’s not that Rubio would be a bad President, per se, just like Robb Stark wouldn’t be a bad King. It’s just not his time, the base would argue. This wouldn’t be a problem if Rubio were the favorite of the conservatives skeptical of Bush’s candidacy, but the field is full of candidates (and the night is dark and full of terrors) who are equally good or better fits for many conservative voters. Not everyone loves the idea of a Targaryen taking back the throne; however, dissenters fall into so many different camps there is not solid support for Robb Stark, King of the North.
6. Chris Christie – Cersei Baratheon
“The only way to keep your people loyal is to make sure they fear you more than the enemy.”
Cersei and Christie: two reckless hotheads who take action without thinking of the consequences, making them both polarizing power brokers who are starting to feel the repercussions of their rashness. Cersei is now realizing, with Tommen married to the beloved Margaery Tyrell, that she has alienated the nobles and common people in King’s Landing; Christie, similarly, has seen how his boldness has turned off voters and donors alike. Christie serves his own ideals, making him the most moderate Republican in the primary, and he is well known. However, his likability has significantly declined since Bridgegate and his time in the public eye. Much like Cersei, the guarantee of funding and power was enough to let Christie find himself getting too comfortable in office.
- Alaina Haworth