Though the milieu of George R.R. Martin's book series A Song of Ice and Fire (the basis for HBO's Game of Thrones) might be best described as the High Middle Ages having its way with the corpse of a Tolkien elf, any student of Beltway politics would find all the politicking, backroom deals, backstabbing, and disingenuous posturing all too familiar.
It all raises the question: What if the leading figures of Westeros during the War of Five Kings were to inhabit the corridors of power in 21st-century Washington, D.C.? What crusades would they lead—speaking politically, not literally? And who would they vote for?
[Editor's note: We're well aware that many of the politicians below are no longer running for office, but given that we're talking about how a bunch of fictional characters from a mythical land would vote in contemporary American elections, let's not split hairs.]
Eddard Stark, Robb Stark: The walking embodiments of noblesse oblige, the Lord of Winterfell and his son, the King in the North, believe in social justice for the needy and swift justice for the deserving. Unfortunately, their naivete proves to be their undoing: Ned leaps into the Thunderdome playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules, and Robb lets a girl's honor cost him his head. Who they'd vote for:The way that President Barack Obama brought the justice of the North to Osama bin Laden would keep the Starks' sword arms satisfied, and they wouldn't notice anything amiss when he brings softball negotiating skills to a hardball round of budget negotiations.
Tywin and Kevan Lannister:The Lord of Casterly Rock and his brother and confidante are the de facto rulers of Westeros, thanks to their almost limitless riches, though they're not officially kings. In 21st-century America, they'd be the Koch brothers, corporate billionaires who avoid the spotlight but shovel money into (or create) super-PACs that support their interests—which in the case of Tywin and Kevan would be maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminating government oversight of corporations. But though the Lannisters see the short-term benefits of wild cannons like the uncontrollable Ser Gregor Clegane (can you say "Tea Party"?), they know that, in the end, a stable nation is a profitable nation. Who they'd vote for:The Golden Boys of House Lannister have Mitt Romney written all over them.
Cersei Lannister:You could argue that the story of Queen Cersei, arguably the biggest all-out villain of the series, is a tragedy of a woman formed by the institutional oppression of her gender. Traded like chattel, trapped in a marriage she hates, and denied any chance at legitimate authority, she exercises what power she can by aborting her husband's babies and then arranging for his death. In our world, she'd secretly believe that women should have full access to government-funded abortions, but she'd give up that platform in a heartbeat to win the White House. Who she'd vote for:You might argue Hillary Clinton or even Sarah Palin, but only Michele Bachmann has that combination of wild-eyed crazy, jaw-dropping detachment from reality, and lack of presence that Cersei Lannister could get behind.
Tyrion Lannister: A reluctant politician at best, the Imp is forced into positions of authority by his father, but finds he's got a real knack for it—especially when it comes to making allies of enemies, or forging delicate political alliances with faraway princes, like when he arranged a marriage between his niece Myrcella and Trystane Martell of Dorne. Who he'd vote for:Tyrion would most appreciate the multinational alliance a canny President George H.W. Bush meticulously constructed for the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s.
Joffrey Baratheon:Though he comes from decidedly exceptional stock, both physically and intellecutally, King Joffrey is a hamhanded leader who responds to even the whisper of conspiracies with maximum force, while enriching the lives of an approved elite and ignoring the plight of the lower classes. Who he'd vote for: Joffrey would find no problem with the preemptive elimination of imaginary threats and the untrammeled enforcement powers that marked the administration of President George W. Bush.
Stannis Baratheon: Humorless and perpetually pissed off, King Stannis owes his successes to his monotheistic god R'hllor and the priestess Melisandre. His world is black and white, godly and heathen, law and order. Also, everyone laughs at him behind his back, and he will never get why. Who he'd vote for: Though he'd flirt with the monotheistic cult of Ron Paul, in the end, only Rick Santorum would be a sufficient spoilsport for Stannis Baratheon.
Renly Baratheon:Charismatic and attractive, but not too heavy in the brains department, Renly Baratheon is all about having a good time, and if he has plans for the Iron Throne besides having it enameled in green to match his eyes, he's keeping them mighty close to his vest. Also, he has a damning sexual secret that everyone suspects but isn't saying openly. Who he'd vote for:John Edwards has the winning combination of charm, sexual secrets, and lack of depth that screams "Renly!"
Balon Greyjoy:King Balon's a fickle sea lord who can't let go of the past, is determined to revive the ways of the Iron Islands, and wants to seize the big prize for himself even if it makes absolutely no sense and screws everyone else over—especially his supposed allies. Who he'd vote for: With his "strategy" of burning all his bridges, rambling on about culture wars, and placing his personal pride over party, Newt Gingrich could be Ironborn.
Daenerys Targaryen: Like Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen's original purpose in life is to wed and breed kings, and like Cersei, she unexpectedly comes into power. But unlike the queen of Westeros, the princess's education in governing makes her more resilient and merciful—especially when it comes to slaves and eunuchs. She's not too fond of the fatcats, though. Who she'd vote for: The Mother of Dragons is more likely to find candidates to her liking in Europe, what with her redistribution of wealth and emphasis on a stronger social net for the poor and disenfranchised, but she might see Ralph Nader as an acceptable alternative—as long as it came in a prophecy, of course.
—Michael Y. Park is a writer living in New York City, and a regular contributor to Details.com.