The analogy is imperfect: There were far too few knifings to call it the "Red Correspondents Dinner." But the fundamentals are in place: Politicking is permanent, policy-making is frozen.
And in each kingdom, that gridlock comes at a price. Westeros has the looming winter. We have looming warming. But after three decades of scientists screaming for action, Washington's biggest answer thus far has involved stretching a 1970 statute into piecemeal cuts to greenhouse gases.
Westeros has Daenerys. We have China (dragons, anyone?). And while the Eastern challenger isn't planning an invasion or anything like one, it is gearing up to be an economic competitor. And to refuse to respond with innovations of our own is to gamble the economic supremacy the American middle class has long taken for granted: the world's highest standard of living and a front-row seat for the newest and neatest technologies.
And the case for our own Westeros-style economic malaise hardly merits explanation. Liberals and conservatives, take your pick: a growing inequality, a falling labor-force participation rate, a permanent underclass, a decline in real wages, and a long-term debt picture that the Iron Bank of Braavos wouldn't touch.
There's no consensus on what constitute America's biggest crises (polling suggests about half of you scoffed when I mentioned climate change) and there's a deep divide over how to address them. But it has been four years since the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank became law, and since then, American policy has been largely on autopilot. And there is remarkable consistency about what comes next when Washington declares there's a crisis at hand and a legislative answer is needed: nothing.
Immigration? Nothing. Tax reform? Nothing. Collapsing infrastructure? Nothing. The housing policy that baked Wall Street's finance bubble? Nothing.
Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Navy Yard? Nothing, nothing, nothing, and nothing.
What we've had instead is a permanent campaign. In the run-up to the 2012 election, senators from both parties promised that once the next four years of Oval Office tenure were settled, Congress would stop grappling and start governing. Two years later and in the twilight months of the congressional session, policy-making is more sparse than ever, midterm campaigning is in full swing, and 2016 is already an obsession.
Tempting as it is, however, to blame our own Lannisters and Tyrells, they're not alone in turning Washington into King's Landing. Witness the city's collective titillation over micro-gaffes and mini-spats. Offer up a "Palin Slams Sharpton Condemns Limbaugh Rips Obama Blasts Boehner" headline, and the readers come running. Explore the nuances of an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, you're whistling in the dark. And while journalists found time to scrutinize every turn of Anthony Weiner's foibles, a failing Veterans Affairs Department stayed hidden in plain sight for decades — at least until it became good fodder for political attacks.