We’re finally coming up on the endgame of Game of Thrones, and I’m sure a lot of us are excited about that. On a global scale, the show made people feel something. Regardless of what you feel when you watch Game of Thrones, your feelings are sincere and genuine. The series shows us the best and worst of humanity, and seeing that really resonates with people, especially the fans. However, there’s another place where we’re truly seeing the best and worst of humanity, and it’s a place that we probably all wish we weren’t seeing it: the 2016 Presidential Election. Unlike in Game of Thrones, the political despots vying for a place in our Oval Office aren’t figments of George R. R. Martin‘s imagination designed to make us rethink how we feel about heroes and villains, they’re real, and in just a few months, one of them will be enacting policies that affect our lives and how we live them. Needless to say, as much as we love Game of Thrones, we wouldn’t want to have a political system that resembles anything they have in Westeros.
It might surprise you, but the 2016 US Presidential Election has a lot more in common with Game of Thrones than you think. Here are sixteen ways that the race for the Iron Throne is just like the race for the highest office in the land.
16. The Wrong Person In Office Could Start Wars
In America and in Westeros, the next leader really matters. Depending on who they are, it could start wars and revolutions. In Westeros, putting Joffrey on the throne resulted in the assassination of a major court official (sorry, Ned), which led to separate Northern and Iron Islands uprisings, a civil war between uncles and nephews, and a siege of a capital city; not to mention a ton of other terrible things. On the other hand, putting someone like Renly on the throne would have been confusing for everyone (sorry, Stannis), but peace would have been had, because Renly for all his flaws would have been a good and decent leader.
In the U.S, it’s the same mentality. Both major party candidates have flaws in their previous political and personal history that would give anyone pause when it comes to voting for them. Considering the kind of election it’s been since late 2015, regardless of who wins, it’s going to be a landmark year.
15. Everyone On The Ballot Is Deeply Flawed In Some Way
Speaking of flaws, both our presidential candidates and the characters eyeing the Iron Throne, are deeply flawed. In season 2 of Game of Thrones, when the War of Five Kings is in full swing, the kings to choose from are:
Stannis, who’s beholden to a foreign god and more importantly, a foreign priestess who likes burning people. Sure, he’s got Davos, who’s an excellent advisor, but Davos isn’t sitting the Iron Throne.
Renly, who’d have actually been a good king, or at least a more benevolent choice than older brother Stannis, but issues of his personal life (like him being gay and with Loras Tyrell) would have probably kept cropping up.
Robb, who wasn’t actually trying to sit the Iron Throne in the first place, he was just trying to free the North from the duplicitousness of King’s Landing. On top of that, regardless of everything, he’s still just a kid.
Balon Greyjoy, who’s another revolutionary leader, except he’s not nearly as good at his job as he thinks.
Joffrey Baratheon, whose cruelty, stupidity, and boorishness speaks for itself.
All of them would benefit the kingdoms, even Joffrey because his advisors were the ones running the show. However, all of them would have probably screwed something up along the way.
The same is true of the presidential candidates, except there’s a difference: with the final two (major) candidates left standing, one choice clearly stands out as “better” in the mind of every voter. It’s different from person to person, but it’s not like it’s such a crapshoot in our election. One choice is good, and the other is very, very bad. Even taking minor candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson into account, the field of choices doesn’t get any better.
14. The Spouses Of The Candidates Are A Big Deal
In Game of Thrones, if you’re trying to be king, who you are married to is a really big deal. Robb’s ultimate choice for a wife screwed him out of a Frey army and led to his death at his uncle Edmure’s wedding. Meanwhile, Renly was able to secure his army not through his lover, Loras, but through Margaery, Loras’s sister and Renly’s wife. After Renly died, Margaery went on to marry Joffrey and actually helped temper him out a bit. It just goes to show that who you marry matters. You could marry the right person, or you can marry the wrong person.
The same is true of our election. Much has been made of Hillary Clinton‘s husband Bill’s history with women, regardless of his status as a former sitting president. On the flip side, much has also been made of Hillary Clinton’s status as a former First Lady. As for the Republicans, a lot of controversy has come up over Melania Trump’s immigration status and actually plagiarizing current First Lady Michelle Obama‘s speech, considering Donald Trump’s position on the Obamas and on illegal immigration. Even before that, Donald Trump was taking potshots at Ted Cruz by levelling insults at his wife Heidi.
13. There Are Lots Of Background Machinations
During the primaries for both parties, even the average voter could get the impression that the major parties really did not want certain people winning. For the Republicans, having Donald Trump as their standard bearer is clearly a hard pill to swallow, to the point where lots of key Republican figures like the Bush family and Mitt Romney have refused to come out in support of him. On the other hand, that’s almost preferable to what the rest of the party did by only halfheartedly falling into line, especially considering how petty Donald Trump can be. As for the Democrats, they weren’t dealing with that much of a cluster, but the Democratic Socialism of Bernie Sanders was probably a little scary for them, so much so that they probably felt like they had to do something about it. There’s lots of evidence that the Democratic Party basically went out of their way to give the primary to Hillary Clinton, not least the leaked emails coming from the Democratic party’s former chairperson.
As for Westeros, we all know how easy it is for someone with smarts to take the reins of the kingdom. Tyrion Lannister did a very good job of making things happen in King’s Landing and Westeros when he was Hand of the King, or at least he did a better job of it than Ned Stark did simply because Tyrion isn’t necessarily obligated to a strict sense of honor. And of course, if it hadn’t been for Littlefinger, literally none of the present day storyline would have happened. Not only did he manage to secure the Vale for himself, he managed to have a hand in almost every major event in Game of Thrones. Sure, Littlefinger’s kind of a jerk, but he’s also very smart, and you can’t help but respect him.
12. The Candidate That Was Probably The Best Fit For The Job Lost
Out of the five kings of Westeros, the ones who were probably the best choice were Robb Stark and Renly Baratheon. While Renly was the youngest of the Baratheon brothers and not actually in line to be king under any circumstances (Joffrey was presumably Robert’s son, and Stannis was Renly’s older brother if you’re taking Joffrey’s actual father into account), he was experienced in politics and a leader that hated war and was able to inspire the love and loyalty of the common people, not to mention his rich allies. Meanwhile, Robb Stark came from a family that was universally loved for their benevolent leadership and strict honor code. On top of that, he actually wasn’t looking for power. All he wanted was a free North. However, both Renly and Robb were betrayed and lost their chances in particularly gruesome ways, meaning that the North and the South had awful, awful leaders to look forward to (Ramsay Snow in the North and Joffrey in the South).
As for our election, we had Bernie Sanders. For many young voters, Bernie Sanders was a dream politician. He was sincere and upfront about his beliefs, he was willing to be more liberal than any candidate in the primary, and he inspired an entire generation, regardless of party affiliations or sympathies. However, in the Democratic primaries, candidates have to rely on super-delegates, and basically all of them had pledged their votes to Clinton, which basically wrapped the primary up for her. Unlike in Westeros, however, Bernie Sanders is very much not murdered by shadows or stabbed by Roose Bolton, so come 2020, he could very well try again.
11. The Conservative Frontrunner Is A Hot Mess
We can’t talk about Westerosi kings without talking about the literal worst king of Westeros ever: Joffrey Baratheon. By the most lenient of standards, Joffrey is a hot mess. He was nearly taken out by riots in the streets, did horrible, awful things to his Northern hostage Sansa and her husband, his uncle Tyrion, and basically engendered ill will with literally everyone he spoke to. It really says something that Game of Thrones is a franchise where you can see the good and bad in every character…except Joffrey.
On the side of the US election, you’ve got Donald Trump. Regardless of whether you want to vote for him or not, he’s not doing good things right now. Just in the past couple of weeks, he’s picked a fight with a Gold Star family, insinuated that voters should exercise their Second Amendment rights on Hillary Clinton, said President Obama founded ISIS, kicked a woman and a crying baby out of his rally in the worst possible way, has yet to debunk a rumor about him donating millions to NAMBLA, and a whole host of other things that I’m just too tired to write out. Following the new and exciting ways Donald Trump takes leave of his senses is actually quite exhausting. Both Trump and Joffrey are blonde, annoying and maniacal at this point.
10. Religion Is Important
Much is made of religion in elections, both American and Westerosi. In Westeros, there are a lot of religions, and all of them have some sort of power. For example, while Stannis distanced himself from the people by aligning himself with Melisandre and her religion, there’s no denying that her religion has a ton of power, and by doing that, he improved his position. On the other hand, while the seven gods of the South haven’t done anything overtly powerful, the power of that religion lies in the church and its ability to snake its tendrils around the king, and ultimately, the kingdom.
In US elections, there’s always one candidate bringing religion into things. In the primaries, it was Ted Cruz, but after he dropped out, there really isn’t an overtly religious candidate anymore. Sure, the Clintons go to church, and Trump’s doing a good job of taking on the agenda of the religious right, but there’s no one really going on about religion now. In this election, religion matters because it’s absent from the overall narrative, but very present in all levels of policy.
9. Debt Is A Major Issue
One thing that everyone has been talking about during this election is debt. Bernie Sanders’ campaign’s major threads involved the economy and debt, especially in the case of college debt. There are literally trillions of dollars in college debt at stake for younger voters, which is why many of them flocked to the Sanders campaign in hopes that he would be President. The economy has been a major issue throughout the last few presidential elections, and given our current economic state, that’s probably not going to change.
In Westeros, there isn’t really a loan system that’s been described in any way, but what we do know is that the Seven Kingdoms are almost drowning in debt that’s owed to the Iron Bank. The Iron Bank is sort of an enigma: we just know that it’s in Braavos, it’s run by the guy who helped create Sherlock, and that Tywin Lannister owes a great deal of money to them. They’re not especially worrisome right now, but if the Iron Bank of Braavos suddenly decided they wanted to call in their debt from both sides of the war, they could at any time, and Westeros would not be prepared for it at all.
8. Foreign Powers Are Taking An Interest
Foreign powers in both Westeros and in our world are sitting up and taking notice of what’s happening in our elections, or at least in our election and Westeros’s civil war. In our country, we have Russia and a whole host of other countries, because unlike in Westeros, whoever becomes President will affect foreign policy and really mess with the state of world affairs, so the outcome in November is just as important to them as it is to us in the U.S. There’s also the fact that Donald Trump has major connections with Vladimir Putin, to the point where Trump’s daughter hangs out with Putin’s girlfriend.
Meanwhile, foreign powers outside of Westeros don’t really have too much influence in what’s happening in their civil war, but they are interested in it. Some people, like Illyrio and Varys, are all about affecting what’s happening behind the scenes, while some others, like Daenerys, want to take control of that scene for themselves.
7. Politics Are Messed Up In Other Countries As Well
We, here in the U.S., might look at our crazy election and think “oh, we’re moving to Canada, or England, or anywhere else if *insert name here* is elected.” That’s all well and good, guys, but foreign countries have major issues, too. The UK just made a very ill-advised Brexit, which has consequences that we can’t even foresee right now, for example, and it gets even more ridiculous from there. As messed up as things are in the U.S, they’re messed up just about everywhere.
As for Westeros, you could leave it and try and make a life somewhere else, but Essos definitely has problems Westeros has never thought of. Outside of Westeros, you run the risk of having a Dothraki horde run through your city and kill everyone in it, including you. There’s also a ton of Faceless men running around, killing random people for profit, the Red Priests and Priestesses that you need to worry about, and the slavers selling people off to the fighting pits. Also, let’s not forget the tiny blonde Westerosi girl laying waste to Slaver’s Bay with three growing dragons. I don’t care how hot you think Daenerys is, I’m pretty sure that’s going to change if she takes over your city, burning everything in her way.
6. Conspiracy Theories And Prophecies Are Important
There are a ton of conspiracy theories in Westeros right now. From the ones coming out of the fandom, like ‘R + L = J’, to the ones happening in Westeros that only a select few characters know about, like the conspiracy behind Joffrey’s death. Life in Game of Thrones is basically walking into one conspiracy theory after another. On top of that, there are a ton of prophecies Westeros needs to worry about, like finding out who ‘The Prince That Was Promised’ is, and getting ready for ‘The Long Night’. Needless to say, the conspiracies and prophecies of our election aren’t nearly as interesting.
First off, there are the still the conspiracy theories floating around about President Obama not being born in this country, which are theories that got largely publicized by Donald Trump. Considering that by all accounts, Ted Cruz is from Canada, I’d love t0 know why that was never brought up, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be waiting forever for that answer. There’s also the pervasive theory that Donald Trump is either trying to destroy the GOP from the inside, or trying to give the election to Hillary Clinton because of their previous connection, which is actually starting to sound plausible because of Trump’s increasingly bizarre behavior. As for prophecies, while some religions are marking this time period as the “end of days,” every political commentator is basically prophesying that no matter the outcome, either the course of history will be changed, or very bad things will happen.
5. The Winner Gets A Super Cool Office
This one isn’t super philosophical: whoever wins this election gets the Oval Office, and whoever wins Westeros gets The Iron Throne. Let’s be real, while you wouldn’t want to sit on the Iron Throne all the time, there’s a reason why lots of conventions and lots of events go out of their way to bring an Iron Throne, and that reason is that the Iron Throne is one of the coolest thrones there is, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. How many kings, fictional or real, can say that their throne was forged out of hundreds of swords and dragonfire? As for real life, the Oval Office looks really nice, and I could see exactly why that’s an office for a leader of the free world.
4. The Major Players Have A Security Detail
One very interesting thing about both the U.S. and Westeros is that a lot of the important figures in both worlds have a very devoted security detail. For the kings and queens of Westeros, they’ve got the Kingsguard (Queensguard for Daenerys), which is an order that serves for life, forsakes their inheritances, and is privy to a lot of information. For our president, his family, and the candidates running for the office, among other people, they’ve got the Secret Service. While they don’t serve for life and can marry if they want, they’re still privy to a lot of information.
3. The Conflict Isn’t About The Issues That Matter
Let’s be real, both our election and Game of Thrones have political conflicts that have one major thread in common: the conflicts aren’t about the issues that matter. For Westeros, everyone’s vying to sit on a big, uncomfortable chair rather than worrying about the very major issues happening to the north and east. In the North, the White Walkers are waking up and causing all sorts of havoc, and to the east, the last Targaryen is coming for everyone that ever wronged her family with a huge army and three (almost) fully grown dragons. Those things are coming very soon, but everyone’s so focused on who’s going to rule that no one has taken those very real threats seriously.
In our election, much is being made of Donald Trump’s behavior when we could actually be spending time talking about his stances on the issues that affect everyday people, like prices going up and wages staying down, an entire generation drowning in student loan debt, and people dealing with social injustices both large and small, not to mention Hillary Clinton’s stances on those issues. As much as it might be fun to poke a little fun at this election because it’s such a mess at times, we really need to focus on some of the bigger issues at hand.
2. The Winner Could Affect The Working Class Massively
When it comes to the larger issues of politics, nobody is affected more than the working class. That’s true in real life and in fiction. In our election, the choice for President means more to the working class than it would for anyone else in the U.S, specifically because issues of raising taxes, creating jobs, and other issues in that vein affect the working class. Everyone voting knows that, it’s just a question of how they interpret what the candidates are saying.
As for Westeros, the smallfolk don’t really make the choice of who can rule (which is why we should all appreciate that we can vote), but the fight for the Iron Throne does affect them. For one, the smallfolk are the ones getting killed more often than not, especially when a guy like The Mountain takes over your village or a flying black dragon messes with your crops and roasts your children. For another, some noble families treat the smallfolk differently (compare Cersei’s indifference to Margaery’s kindness at the Purple Wedding, for example), so it matters who pulls the strings.
1. The Working Class Doesn’t Really Care, They Just Want Good And Happy Lives
As much as elections and rulers matter in real life and in fiction, the basic fact is that in all seriousness, the working class just want good lives and be able to support their families and themselves. They don’t want the moon, they want the things that will allow them to live the best lives. In Westeros, lots of the peasants and smallfolk get into discussions about the War of Five Kings and the dramas of the nobility, and the common thread always seems to be that they want the wars over petty drama to stop.
In our election, it’s the same thing. The working class is very split on their vote, because depending on your own political leanings, you have your own opinions on which candidate is going to be the champion of the working class (besides maybe Bernie Sanders, who conceded to Clinton at the Democratic National Convention). However, while the political differences of the U.S. vary quite wildly, everyone wants a peaceful life where they can provide for their needs and some of their wants.