This week, New Girl creator Liz Meriwether will be in Cleveland covering the Republican National Convention for Vulture.
I was standing at the Republican Convention having a serious conversation with a man wearing an enormous felt elephant hat with Donald Trump buttons on either ear, and I realized I was having a great time. We weren’t talking about Trump. We weren’t talking about the chaotic, macabre, and mostly boring convention. We were talking about television. Specifically, which Game of Thrones character is the most Republican.
“I know who Hollywood would pick — that awful boy king who was just the worst guy ever. They would make him a Republican. But in reality, the imp would be the Republican. Maybe I’m not saying it the proper way … but he rocks. He’s brilliant. He’s always leading the right way,” Mike Lachs, an honorary delegate from New Jersey, told me as he adjusted his elephant hat, which he could never quite keep straight on his head. A guy stopped to take a selfie with him. He was unfazed. I got the sense that it happened to him all the time.
Talking to Mike, I realized that my best way to even come close to understanding what being a Republican means to the people here was going to be through the lens of television characters. In an election year that has made many people question what the Republican Party actually stands for, it was useful to hear Republican delegates explain their party to me in a language I could understand: Game of Thrones.
Mike Hopkins, a delegate from Montana, also thought that Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion Lannister, would be a Republican. “But it’s kind of hard to cast all the Lannisters as one political ideology,” he said. “The father is obviously quite fascist. And the daughter’s just kind of bat-shit crazy.”
As speakers inside the convention hall shouted about how ISIS was coming to kill us all, Mike from Montana broke down which political party each character would subscribe to. Ned Stark, everyone in Winterfell, and the wildlings would be Libertarians. “Those little tree children people” are members of the Green Party. Mike saw Olenna Tyrell, the matriarch of the Tyrell family, as Hillary Clinton. “You can tell that the woman is very intelligent, if not slightly immoral, and her husband is just dumb as shit. Hillary Clinton was the secretary of State, so you can’t say that she’s a stupid woman.” That was actually the nicest thing I’d heard anyone say about Hillary all week. In fact, Mike refused to assign a party to the psychotic King Joffrey, because “I don’t think you want to say that any political party is necessarily going to take a crossbow and shoot a naked woman to a bedpost 17 times. That would just be rude. We’re trying to be respectful in our political discourse.”
It was the first time in days that I had heard anyone at the convention say anything respectful or civil about another political party, even though he was basically just conceding that Democrats aren’t psychotic murderers.
Mike shocked me when he chose the bisexual, dashing prince of Dorne, Oberyn Martell, as the most Republican character on the show. When I told him that I didn’t understand why a character who regularly participates in orgies would be a Republican, he defended his choice: “Hey, you know, I know quite a few LGBT Republicans and let’s just be completely honest: There are probably quite a few that just haven’t told anyone yet.” What made Oberyn a Republican, for Mike, was his commitment to “let people live their lives according to however they want to live them.” Which is exactly the way I would have described what being a Democrat means.
“Jon Snow is Ted Cruz,” Greg Neff, a Louisiana delegate and admitted Cruz supporter, explained to me. “He was cut down by the leadership within his own organization. He was stabbed in the back by the establishment of the Wall. Then you just have this absolutely insane battle come along and the wildling, Donald Trump, who doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing on the battlefield comes along and says ‘Hey, Cruz, I’m going to go ahead and let you speak …’” Greg lost the thread for a moment.
Some of the comparisons worked better than others. Mike Hopkins wondered if the people of Dorne really represented his party. If so, then “pretty much all that’s left is for a whole bunch of women to end up murdering whoever is the top.” Oh wait, spoiler alert. He continued, “I’m sure, inevitably, Ivanka Trump will do the same to her father. So I feel like that’s a pretty good fit.”
So Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Oberyn Martell all belong to the same party? The guys who chose Jon Snow and Oberyn Martell were from Louisiana and Montana, respectively, and what mattered to them more than anything was the idea of individual freedom. Being a Republican meant being a “rugged individualist,” Greg explained. I wonder if Greg would be okay with Mike having extended the idea of individual freedom to include LGBTQ orgies.
The delegate from New Jersey, my man in an elephant hat, who described himself as a “moderate,” had chosen Tyrion Lannister because he was deeply skeptical of any candidate who promised major change. When I asked him why he thought that many producers and creators of television were liberal, he said, “I think it’s the nature of creative people. Republicans are like: ‘I’ll take what I know. And sometimes it’s not the most kindest, gentlest America, but I know what I’m getting.’ When you’re creative, it’s like: ‘Live and let live. Why should it matter? You should be able to do whatever you want.’ And creative people, they live their life that way. That’s what makes them the people they are, and lets them do all these spectacular things that we all really enjoy. For their life, it works. For most other people, it doesn’t.” For him, conservatism was about holding onto the status quo and making gradual change over time. Except, I guess, not for the millions of people Trump promises to deport.
In fact, I wasn’t sure where Donald Trump fit into any of these delegate’s visions for the Republican Party. Was he really a wildling, outside of the established bounds of his party but willing to help in a crisis — or, after the grim “Winter is coming” vision he laid out last night in his speech, was he a White Walker? Greg was already looking forward to the election of 2020, which he saw as Cruz’s chance for a resurrection. “Just like at the end of season six, Jon Snow becomes King of the North. You’re going to have Ted Cruz become the King of the North.”