HBO’s most successful show ever, Game of Thrones, recently wrapped up it’s fifth season in a finale episode that set an all-time piracy record within the span of just eight hours. Thrones, based off of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, has rapidly become a pop culture phenomenon. Aside from captivating global audiences young and old, the show consistently makes headlines for its controversial scenes, some of which have even commanded the attention of national politicians.
Despite the sensitive material, viewers likely keep coming back to Thrones because of Martin’s wildly entertaining and complex characters. And coincidentally, the latest season of Thrones has concluded just in time for another national production–with equally entertaining and complex characters–to begin: the 2016 primary season.
Interestingly, many of the 2016 presidential candidates exhibit qualities that parallel those of Martin’s fictional rulers. With this group of candidates, the struggle for the White House could end up looking less like your average presidential election and more like the fight for the Iron Throne.
(WARNING: Spoilers Ahead.)
Hillary Clinton & Cersei Lannister: With these two, you either love them or love to hate them. Like Cersei Lannister, Clinton’s political career has been characterized by rampant corruption and a perpetual cycle of scandals, one after the other. She and Cersei originally derived their political influence from their husbands, and each has since shown a thirst for power that isn’t easily satiated. Both women have also proven to be inept at political leadership–Hillary’s lack of tangible accomplishments, for instance, even has liberals at a loss for words. However, each woman retains a fiercely loyal group of supporters who entertain their political ambitions. It’ll be interesting to see if Hillary’s ambitions are finally laid low, not unlike Cersei herself was in the most recent episode of Thrones.
Jeb Bush & Stannis Baratheon: Like Stannis, Jeb Bush is a member of a political dynasty and brother to a former national leader. Both men have ample political experience under their belts and have shown themselves to be competent in positions of leadership. Additionally, Bush will likely be the most well-funded Republican candidate, perhaps the only one with enough cash to rival the Clintons. On paper, these men should win their respective fights for power, but something just isn’t there. Stone-faced Stannis couldn’t win over enough allies in his fight against the Lannisters, despite being well-equipped to win, and ultimately died because he couldn’t secure a military victory on his own. Similar to Mitt Romney, awkward old Jeb will have a hard time winning over voters looking for a more polished and exciting candidate, especially one without the name “Bush.”
Carly Fiorina & Margaery Tyrell: In Thrones, Margaery Tyrell emerges as the primary opponent of Cersei Lannister, usurping her role as queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Since her 2016 campaign kicked off, Fiorina has tried to do much the same, portraying herself as the anti-Hillary Clinton by aggressively challenging the former First Lady in speeches and campaign ads. Fiorina and Tyrell are arguably more likable than their female counterparts, but both also come from extremely wealthy backgrounds that aren’t totally free from scandal. Throughout recent years Fiorina’s record at Hewlitt-Packard has been met with mixed reviews, and her lack of government experience definitely works against her. Like in the show, it would be entertaining to watch these women duke it out on the national stage.
Rand Paul & Tyrion Lannister: Both Rand and Tyrion have solid records holding government positions, and in the past each man has been overshadowed politically by their more influential fathers. These two are also known for trying to talk themselves out of sticky situations: Tyrion’s quick wit has saved him from death on multiple occasions, and Paul recently added to his filibustering reputation, talking for 10 and a half hours against the PATRIOT Act’s renewal of the NSA data collection program. Indeed, just as Tryion is a fan favorite, Rand’s filibustering on issues related to government surveillance–an issue young people have shown they care about–combined with his more libertarian policies make him the Republican candidate poised to capture the millennial vote.
Marco Rubio & Daenerys Targaryen: In Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen is a girl who started out powerless, but quickly becomes a world conqueror. She acquires dragons and massive armies in the span of only a few years. Marco Rubio’s ascent to the national political scene has been comparably swift and successful: Within the span of 4 years, Rubio has gone from being a freshman Senator to a rumored vice presidential nominee and now to full-fledged presidential candidate. He may not have any dragons, but Rubio does possess certain characteristics that give him an undeniable advantage: he’s charismatic, has proven himself to be an impressive orator, and can relate to young folks and Hispanics, two key demographics in the upcoming election. Like Daenerys, Rubio is an exciting newcomer who not only looks the part, but also has real potential to become an effective leader.
Dr. Ben Carson & Jon Snow: Although this pairing might strike some people as unusual, both Dr. Carson and Jon Snow are more reserved men who’ve risen to leadership, despite a history of trying to stick to the middle ground. Carson, for instance, wasn’t even a registered Republican until last year, and his political ambitions arose only after he received significant encouragement from conservatives after his remarks at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Similarly, Jon Snow’s rise as commander of the Night’s Watch was less a product of his own ambition, and more a mere acceptance of a call to action by his brothers-in-arms. Both men are also accused traitors: While John Snow caught criticism for working with the long-standing enemies of the Night’s Watch, known as the Wildlings, Carson has often been labeled an Uncle Tom by liberal partisans who resent him for joining their own political enemies. But will America lose their love for Carson, as the Watch did with Jon Snow?
Ted Cruz & Ned Stark: Both Cruz and Stark are men committed to principles and deeply critical of the corruption inherent in their political spheres, yet neither of them really knows how to play the game. To admirers, they’re virtuous and courageous, but to their critics, they’re foolish and arrogant. Cruz, for instance, hasn’t done himself any favors by being one of the most polarizing figures in recent political memory, having been the face of the 2013 government shutdown and the de facto Tea Party leader. Ned Stark met his demise because he challenged establishment elites; similarly, Cruz can’t win the election if he continues without the broader support of the Republican base.
Donald Trump & Robert Baratheon: Like old King Robert, Trump is a man consumed by his own wealth and celebrity status. He’ll get in petty fights with other celebrities and say really stupid things, from whining about President Obama’s birth certificate to suggesting that he’ll force Mexico to finance the border wall he’d build as president. Both these men were good at what they did–Robert a warrior, Trump a businessman–but neither has any place at the head of a nation. Just like Robert’s now dead in the water, so are Trump’s chances of securing the Oval Office.