Sunday, July 3, 2016

Something different: Political legitimacy in Westeros

OK, something different today.  I'll pick up on it tomorrow.

With last week's season finale, it is worth thinking about the nature of political legitimacy in Westeros.  Who has the right to rule Westeros?  That's different from who should rule.  The answer there is obvious.  Lady Mormont.  D'uh.  When we think of legitimacy in a situation like Westeros in Game of Thrones, though, there are three issues to disentangle: lines of succession, process of succession, and perception of legitimacy.

1)  Line of succession.  If we reject the legitimacy of Robert's rebellion, then Dany is the rightful ruler of Westeros.  She is the last legitimate Targaryen.  End of discussion.

On the other hand, if we accept Robert's rebellion, then Cersei really is the rightful ruler.  Both Stannis and Renly are dead.  It doesn't matter that Cersei's kids were conceived by incest with Jaime because they're dead anyway.  She was Robert's wife, and she's got the best claim in any line of succession, unless there is some no-queens-allowed thing, in which case Dany is screwed too.  Really, though, for line of succession arguments, Robert wanted Dany and Viserys tracked down and killed because of that line of succession thing.  Dany is the rightful ruler under this argument.

2)  Process of succession.  This is the Westerosi equivalent of an inauguration.  Cersei underwent it.  Dany didn't.  In a process sense, that makes Cersei the rightful ruler, not Dany, because Cersei had the right Septon make her go through the right ceremonial brouhaha.  Think 2000.  The butterfly ballot cost Gore the election.  This is not even a question in political science.  Here is an ungated copy of a 2001 article from the American Political Science Review demonstrating that point.  (Truth in advertising: one of the co-authors was Henry Brady, who was one of my grad school mentors).  Gore won.  This is not debatable.  But, some dude in a silly robe with Gilbert & Sullivan stripes on it (yes, really-- go read about William Rehnquist) put Dubya's hand on a King James, and voila!  Iraq War, Part Deux!  George W. Bush had the  legitimate constitutional authority to exercise presidential powers, even though he lost the election, because he was properly sworn in under the right ceremony.

So was Cersei, so sorry, Dany!

3)  Perception of legitimacy is tricky.  Think of that scene acclaiming Jon Snow the King of the North.  By line of succession, was he?  Nope.  Not only was he not the legitimate heir of Ned Stark, he wasn't even Ned's kid at all.  Sure, he's a Stark (Lyanna's), but not Ned's.  OK, let's give that group leeway for not knowing that Bran is alive since he's the real heir to Winterfell, and there's the complicated issue that Sansa was first married to Tyrion, then Ramsey, and none of them are steeped in the R + L = J fandom blather, but this isn't about determining line of succession.

And it isn't about process either.  Compare it to the kingsmoot in the Iron Isles.  They made Euron go through the whole drowning thing.  Fine, let's give Jon a pass on account of the whole, died and resurrected thing, but the scene wasn't a process.  It was a bunch of burly northmen standing up and yelling their informal allegiance to the teen heart-throb.

But they perceived him as legitimate.  So they'll follow him.

And yet, is that different from the lack of anyone rebelling against the Baratheon/Lannisters in King's Landing?  Eh.  Because that's what legitimacy really is, in the end.  A ruler is legitimate if the ruler is perceived as legitimate, and the governed consent to be governed by not rebelling.

This gets more complicated when there is a threat of dragons/wildfire/secret police, though, doesn't it?

Really, though, someone needs to make Westeros great again.  Essos is laughing at us.  Our leaders are stupid.  They're making very bad deals with the Iron Bank of Braavos.  Who knows more about dealing with the Iron Bank than me?  And there's this Dany.  She's bringing a bunch of Dothraki.  They're dirty, they're rapists...  We need another wall!  That wall that Bran the builder built?  Terrible!  He's pathetic!  Third rate!  I'll build a better wall!  And I'll keep those Dothraki out!

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