GoT’s political science lesson


The finale of Game of Thrones moved at a snail’s pace and was mostly anticlimactic, but it featured an amusing scene in which VIPs from the Seven Kingdoms gathered to choose a new ruler. The bookish Samwell Tarly argued that the people should decide — the common people, that is — but the others merely chuckled at his suggestion.

“I don’t blame ’em for laughing,” Swamp Rabbit said as we watched the show. “You never know who might come to power if you leave it up to the peeps.”

I told the rabbit to hush, the show was supposed to be an escape from real-world politics and other depressing subjects.

But he was right, I added. We live in a country where the people decide who rules, and this time the people — with the help of the antiquated electoral college system — chose an orange hog monster who’s working hard to become our first dictator.

The rabbit clucked at me. “Sounds like you ain’t got no faith in them institutional norms I keep hearing about.”

I asked him what the norms were, just to see if he knew. In so many words, he told me that norms in politics were rules and conventions that ensure a basic level of civility and functionality in government. Norms are essential to the checks-and-balances system. Norms help keep the three branches of government co-equal.

I scowled at him. “Norms do nothing but hide the flaws in the Constitution. It took a lowlife like Trump to prove once and for all that norms are no substitute for laws, not when it comes to the presidency.”

He clucked again. “You’re agreeing with me, Odd Man. Who woulda thunk it.”

I told him I was just stating the obvious. Norms can’t compel a president to disclose his tax returns, or divest himself of businesses that he owned prior to being elected, or refrain from firing important federal officials who might reveal something damning about his conduct in office.

And so on. Trump wants to establish his own norms. He wants to make it normal for a president to appoint a crooked attorney general and to prevent staffers from obeying congressional subpoenas and to threaten nuclear war.

The rabbit said, “The scary thing is that the peeps who elected Trump, and half of the peeps in Congress, are cool with him becoming a dictator, or a tyrant. Whatever you want to call it.”

“The people make big mistakes sometimes,” I countered. “Can you think of a better way to choose a leader?”

We watched the part of the TV show where the VIPs decided their next ruler should be a paraplegic who hardly ever speaks and spends much of his time in a dreamworld.

“There you go,” the rabbit said. “Them VIPs figure Bran Stark is the safe bet.”

I scowled again. “A small group of royals settle on a lame, kooky teenager to be their chief. This is your idea of a good system for choosing a leader?”

The rabbit shrugged. “He’s a kook, but at least he ain’t likely to turn into a tyrant.”

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