Warning: Spoilers for Game of Thrones through the Season Six finale follow.
The recently concluded sixth season of Game of Thrones provided fans with an immensely satisfying experience. Conflicts which had been developing for years were brought to cathartic resolution.
One of those conflicts persisted between the Queen Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Cersei Lannister, and the unnamed High Sparrow. The latter commanded the Faith Militant, a restored force of inquisitors imposing the dictates of the Faith of the Seven. Viewers will recall that the High Sparrow emerged in season five as a surrogate of Cersei used against the queen regent’s rivals, until he rallied the people under his banner and turned against her.
A real world analog has manifested itself in American presidential politics. Senator Ted Cruz was once regarded as the consummate anti-establishment candidate. He built his career over President Barack Obama’s two terms by fostering an expectation among the Republican electorate that a conservative agenda could be somehow enacted despite Democrat control of both the Senate and the White House. He famously championed the effort to “defund Obamacare,” a scheme which never had a chance of panning out, but which made for succulent red meat for whipping up support and bolstering an insurgent reputation.
Cruz knew that Republicans could never deliver on his proposals. He counted on it. Getting activists to buy into impossible goals provoked useful frustration when those goals were not met. Cruz hoped to channel that frustration into a successful bid for the presidency.
What he didn’t count on was Donald Trump, our High Sparrow, an unforeseen charismatic figure who would turn Cruz’s strategy against him and the party as a whole. Now Cruz has been cast aside, supplanted and placed under the same judgment as the establishment he once demonized.
The question remains whether the national convention in Cleveland will present a stunning coup along the lines of Cersei’s wildfire revenge. Probably not. But it would certainly seal the analogy.