Courting the virtual constituency

I had set aside a bit of time this afternoon to look around the grid and see if any of the Republican Presidential candidates had bothered to establish a presence in Second Life, like Hillary Clinton did last time. However after an hour or so spent logging in, then immediately being kicked off the server, my patience with the polished consumer product that is SL ran out and I decided to go off and do something less frustrating.

I’ll be surprised if any of the candidates have an official build anyway. Four years ago relative mainstreamers like Romney or Huntsman might have felt that a virtual world campaign HQ would be just the thing to show they were hip to where the kids were at, but the days when Second Life was synonymous with tech-savvy are long gone. I imagine that the evangelical wing of the GOP, if they have heard of SL at all, will have read about it in one of those tracts telling them that the internet is a tool of Satan, and will see it as another of the many things that consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes that should be illegal.

The exception to this is Ron Paul; his wacky brand of right-populism seems pretty much in tune with the prevailing ideology of Second Life, which, in my experience at least, tends to a mish-mash of libertarianism and objectivism, so he might feel it’s worth trying to engage with the SL electorate. I doubt he’ll be doing any virtual campaigning in person, but I’m sure there will be one or two “Ron Paul for President” resident groups, and maybe even a customised avatar, like the Sarah Palin that came out in 2008.

Back in the real world, the Iowa Caucuses turned out as predicted; Romney failed to enthuse more than 25% of the base, and the social conservatives coalesced around Santorum, for now at least. On to New Hampshire tomorrow, where the pundits are suggesting that Romney will wrap it up as Santorum’s lack of money and organisation begins to tell. There are alternative scenarios – Huntsman might siphon moderate votes away from Romney, or Paul might pull off a surprise – but my feeling is that conventional wisdom will be proved right.

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