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Cersei Lannister on the Iron Throne
HBO
November 8 is coming.
THE IRON THRONE

The ultimate Game of Thrones guide to the US election

By Ruby Jones

So far, 2016 has read much like a George R.R. Martin novel. Long wars have raged on all fronts, leaving thousands of people to die and hundreds of thousands more displaced. Economic hardships collided with natural disasters. One by one, our cultural heroes have passed in shocking and unexpected ways. And one of the most shocking and polarizing US presidential campaigns of the past century is reaching its finale.

When I first read that reality-television personality and self-professed business tycoon Donald Trump was running for president of the United States my initial reaction was…

Followed by confusion.

Disbelief.

Amusement.

Fear.

Anger.

And finally, acceptance.

It got me thinking: If this election was actually happening right now in Westeros, what would it look like? And how could we, the people, make sense of the madness by applying what we have learnt from Game of Thrones to our own reality?

Brace yourselves, because winter is coming in the US.

THE FALLEN HERO:
Jon Snow as Barack Obama 

HBO / AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The dark-eyed dreamboat and dashing leader Barack Obama truly is the Prince who was Promised. Fearless in the face of danger, he’s our valiant Lord Commander, unafraid to make unpopular decisions for the good of the realm.

The King of the North rises up to defend us against the White Walkers—otherwise known as climate change—while other leaders deny their very existence… until it is too late. The White Walkers are a cataclysmic and unstoppable frozen army of the dead who are marching relentlessly towards us. But does anyone care? Down south in King’s Landing, most of the noble houses are too wrapped up in political plays and betrayals to care about this icy invasion.

Obama was the only leader who people seemed to be listening to—and now his watch has ended.

(But I haven’t given up hope of him being brought back for one last term.)

THE VILLAIN:
Joffrey Baratheon as George W. Bush 

HBO / AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

For every hero there has to be a villain. It would be all too easy to cast Republican nominee Donald Trump as Game of Thrones’s original scoundrel, Joffrey Baraethon, but this sniveling, incompetent ball of male entitlement would be better represented by former president George W. Bush.

Undoubtedly the worst king to govern in a crisis, the laws of familial succession dictated that Joffrey was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne… or so we were lead to believe.

George W. Bush left behind a calamitous mess that we’re still cleaning up: Terrible decisions made under his leadership have meant that, even years after his reign, we are still fighting mismanaged wars whilst the economy flounders and the kingdom continues to divide.  But now that he’s gone and we’re faced with even more diabolical challengers for the Iron Throne, I almost miss him.

That’s because the man potentially next in line is much, much worse.

THE WILDCARD:
Euron Greyjoy as Donald Trump

HBO / AP Photo/Greg Allen/Invision

At first glance, Euron Greyjoy doesn’t really seem like all that much of a threat, but beware to all those who underestimate this guy—for he truly is batshit crazy. When we first meet Euron, he saunters into the Kingsmoot, uniquely under-qualified while enthusiastically referencing his supposedly gigantic penis as some kind of political strategy.

One could almost imagine him on the campaign trail, casting vague aspersions and making outlandish promises:

That Khalesie, she’s sending in people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. I’m gonna make the Iron Islands great again. Oh, and I’m gonna build a great fleet—and no one builds ships like me. And you know what? I’m going to make the Dothraki pay for it.”

But because he’s the wildcard who somehow has actually been given power, Euron is never held accountable for his bizarre behavior like every other major player is. This makes him one of the most dangerous contenders in the game.

THE UNDERDOG:
Eddard Stark as Bernie Sanders

HBO / AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Eddard Stark was the honorable and just hero who we all really wanted to sit on the Iron Throne. There’s no denying Bernie Sanders would have served the people of Westeros boldly and fairly. With his rational policies on universal health care and gun control, Bernie would have most likely ushered in a golden age of peace and prosperity.

But when you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or die—especially when you call out the tyrannical and corrupt power brokers rather publicly.

Despite him not ruling as many hoped he would, we all felt the Bern, and rest assured, “the North remembers.” Even though it’s very unlikely he will ever sit on the throne himself, the inroads he made have laid a path for those to come after him.

THE NEXT LINE OF SUCCESSION:
Stannis Baratheon as Jeb Bush 

HBO / AP Photo/J Pat Carter

Poor, overlooked middle child Jeb Bush is none other than poor, overlooked middle-child Stannis Baratheon. Coming from a noble house, Jeb errs on the conservative side. That being said, compared to his predecessors—whose penchant for expensive wars and general psychopathy almost destroyed the Kingdom—he’s actually an OK choice for the Iron Throne.

So it’s unfortunate that he’s just not that likable. He lacks the charisma, charm, and intellect of every other major player. Compared to dragons and Donald Trump, Stannis just comes across as rather bland. Coupled with the fact he’s made some fairly questionable strategic choices during his campaign for the Throne…

… I can’t see this ending well for him in future battles.

THE LIKELY HERO:
Tommen Baratheon as Ted Cruz 

HBO / AP Photo/Matt Rourke

After a long line of terrible Kings, Ted Cruz had all the makings of a sensible and civilized monarch. But in spite of his nice-guy strategy, Cruz’s campaign was painfully awkward at times. Many within his own ranks had also begun to speculate as to whether or not his strict religious leanings were beginning to take a toll upon his public image…

Ted Cruz started out strong but lacked the magnetism required to become a truly great king. However, it was ultimately underestimating the true nature of his rivals and just how far they were prepared to go that brought about his subsequent downfall.

THE STRATEGIST:
Margaery Tyrell as Carly Fiorina 

HBO / AP Images/Mark J. Terrill

A former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina is the intelligent and ambitious Margaery Tyrell. She is indomitable, wealthy, and politically shrewd. Despite her somewhat conservative policies, her eloquence and philanthropic background won her esteem amongst her subjects.

By October of 2015, Finorina was more popular than ever, poised to defeat Queen Regent Hillary Clinton in the polls. But Fiorina suspended her own campaign to forge a powerful alliance with Ted Cruz as his vice-presidential running mate. However, Cruz dropped out of the race only six days after naming her as his cohort, making her bid for vice presidency the shortest in American history. Much like Tyrell, her reign ended before it could truly begin.

THE WHITE KNIGHT:
Ser Barristan Selmy as John McCain 

HBO / AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

A decorated military veteran and famously gifted solider, John McCain has had the misfortune of serving evil Kings for most of his career. Writer Mark Leibovich describes McCain in The New York Times as, “The war hero bent on transcending the call of self interest to serve a cause greater than himself—The Last Lion, The Lion in Winter.” If that’s not the most Game of Throne-esque description of a politician of all time, then I’m quitting right now.

McCain left the great game after suffering defeat in 2008, but he remained a US senator. He arose to publicly criticize Donald Trump for insulting and belittling the family of a fallen solider who was killed while serving in Iraq. Notorious for his silver tongue and hot temper, John McCain may well be one of the unlikely heroes of this story.

THE HAND OF THE KING:
Tyrion Lannister as Joe Biden

HBO / AP Photo/Mel Evans

Intellectual, facetious, and witty vice president Joe Biden is Casterly Rock’s black sheep, Tyrion Lannister. Renowned for his cutting sense of humor and bravery, Joe Biden has earned the nickname ‘The President of Vices.’

Although his personal life has been struck by tragedies, Joe Biden has always put the good of the realm ahead of himself. Having served as a senator since the 1970s, it is in his role as the Hand of the King that Biden has really shone.

Joe Biden excels at counseling great leaders to take the intelligent and righteous path—sometimes at the expense of their own popularity, and I feel we will see him again in the great wars to come…

THE QUEEN:
Cersei Lannister as Hillary Clinton 

HBO / AP Photo/Matt Rourke

When we first meet Cersei Lannister, she was playing the role of a long-suffering wife to the drunken, philandering, and power-hungry King Robert. Witnessing the way that Robert so openly and clumsily thwarted their marriage vows actually inspired sympathy at first.

Sound familiar?

However, this is a lady who doesn’t need pity from anyone—she’s been in the game longer than most people think, and she certainly knows how to play it. Cersei is devoted to her family—however imperfect they may be—and above all will do anything within her power to protect them.

At first glance, Cersei may seem like the obvious feminist choice as she is intelligent, fierce, and has no problem sticking it to the chauvinist boys club that is the King’s Small Council. But below the surface she is politically cunning and willing to go to extreme measures to secure her place upon the Iron Throne, whether that’s destroying thousands of sensitive emails or plotting to incinerate half of King’s Landing with Wyldfire.

Cersie is famously unpopular amongst her constituents, and although many of their grievances are justifiable, it’s frustrating to see the enormous misogynistic double standards that she faces on a daily basis. Similarly compared to many of her barely coherent male opponents, Hillary Clinton is often heavily scrutinized and publicly ridiculed. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Her ascension to the Iron Throne may not have been glorious, virtuous, or noble, but you know what? I’m with her. She’ll be a far superior negotiator in tense diplomatic circumstances. She has a mind for strategy. And she’s been second-in-command for so long that she understands what it really means to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Long may she reign.

What’s that? Depressed? Unsatisfied? Well despair not my sweet summer child, for we may still encounter…

THE LIBERATOR:
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, The First of her name, Queen of Meereen, Queen of The Andals and the Rhoynar and The First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, The Unburnt, The Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons as Justin Trudeau

HBO / AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Quite frankly, at this point, Justin Trudeau swooping in upon a fire-breathing dragon from across the Canadian border might be the only thing that could save us all.

Here’s hoping.