The Trump era has been tough on love, whether you’re trying to reconcile political differences in your marriage or simply trying to get through a first date without ranting about the news. And things haven’t necessarily been much easier on Trump supporters.
Earlier this summer, Fox News reported that young Trump and GOP staffers were struggling to find love in Washington D.C. One 29-year-old lobbyist told the outlet that dating as a Republican in Trump’s America is “absolutely insane” and “getting so bad.” Politico wrote about the phenomenon, explaining that for Trump staffers, D.C. is “hostile territory.” One administration official in her early 30s told Politico that someone on a dating app said to her, “Thanks but no thanks. Just Googled you and it said you were a mouthpiece for the Trump administration. Go fuck yourself.”
And with every perceived problem comes a solution. This fall, Emily Moreno, who knows firsthand the struggles of getting a second date in our divided America, started her own dating app for those who support Trump: DonaldDaters. Moreno previously worked for Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ron Johnson before deciding to take a break from campaigning. She looked into public affairs, and from there, launched DonaldDaters. As of mid-November, she says the app has about 25,000 downloads.
“People that are Trump supporters, they’re told if they support this president to swipe left,” she says. “What I think [is] even worse, in some instances, if people do get a date, either they have to self censor or they don’t get a second date.” One of her friends went on a date with a guy who kept saying Republicans are the worst thing that’s ever happened. “Not the Civil War. Republicans.”
It’s a sign of the hyperpolarized times that one can easily imagine getting into it about the Civil War on a first date. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll of over 6,000 people from late December 2016 to early January 2017, the number of people who argued with friends and family about politics jumped six percent in comparison to a poll taken in October before the election. Sixteen percent of those people said they stopped talking to a family member or friend due to the election, while 13 percent ended a relationship with a close friend or family member.
Moreno herself went on a disastrous date in 2016 with someone she met through a dating app. They went to a bar, and when he asked about her job, she said she was working on Senator Johnson’s re-election campaign. “From there, I mean, it was over. He went on this five minute monologue. He basically filibustered my date, saying that, how could I be a woman, which is always my favorite, how could I be a woman—and I always remind them in that moment that I’m a hispanic woman—how could I be a woman that could be a Republican?” She went home, deleted the app, and swore off online dating. She admits that the guy probably wasn’t her prince charming, but she wishes she had a chance to get to know him and vice versa.
“He was so quick to dismiss me without knowing me. I think that speaks to what a lot of people feel, a lot of people feel like as Trump supporters, we’re not even given a chance.” And it’s not just dating. Moreno says she lost friends she’d known for 10 years because of her opinion on the Kavanaugh hearings. “We should have dialogue when we disagree with each other. The majority of my friends are Democrats, and we’re still friends because, one, my relationships aren’t built on politics and, two, if we ever talk about politics, it’s always respectful.”
Moreno’s business approach is more open-minded than her app’s name may suggest. Non-Trump supporters are welcome on the app; that’s not what she cares about. Mostly, it’s meant to be a place where people won’t be turned down simply because of their political opinions. “This is not like, a Trump brainwashing app,” she said. “Go on there, and the only rule is to be tolerant. Or don’t talk about politics. That’s completely normal and probably good advice for anyone looking for a date.”
Even if her advice is well-intentioned, it’s no secret that when people self-segregate from those who disagree with them, it’s easy to egg each other on and to become even more extreme within a particular bubble. It was widely reported that Robert Bowers, the alleged shooter who killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, was linked to anti-Semitic posts on the social media site Gab, which says it champions “free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online.” (Wired reports that Gab took down the account linked to Bowers and contacted the FBI.) It might seem like a big leap, but I asked Moreno if she ever worries that DonaldDaters could foster these kinds of conversations.
She doesn’t bat the question away. “I think that’s a really good point,” Moreno says. “And I thought a lot about protecting my user security. What I would say is that anyone that is on there that feels like someone else is using the app for the wrong intentions can be blocked. If the same user is blocked twice, they are immediately suspended from the app, and they’ll have to go through an entire appeal process.”
For Moreno, the more pressing concern is that “liberals who aren’t the blue dogs that allow for free conversation” will infiltrate the app in order to expose Trump supporters. After all, it’s already been exposed to hackers. The day DonaldDaters launched, a French security researcher was able to download users’ photos, names, and messages. Moreno says her team worked to fix the app’s vulnerability, but she says people are still trying to hack their system all the time.
Security threats aside, DonaldDaters is a lot like other dating apps, though the stock photos on the login page are all white and heterosexual. On your profile, you can answer prompts like, “My favorite president..,” “The right date for me…,” and “I am triggered by….”
In the app store, the reviews are mixed. Some specified that while they think the idea is great, they found the app didn’t match them well and would crash, and some complained about needing to pay for certain features. One reviewer wrote, “I’m beginning to suspect that somewhere out there there’s a Trump hating liberal laughing at how he tricked thousands of Trump supporters into giving up their info.” Another said, “It’s only been out for a minute but that doesn’t matter! Met the hottest girl ever off here and I can take her in the sun because she isn’t a snowflake!”
DonaldDaters is a conservative dating app, but the name itself does imply support of a particular person: Donald Trump. I ask Moreno if she thinks there’s a difference now in what Donald Trump’s name means, as opposed to back in 2016. Before he took office, it was mostly provocation and people might say that voting for Trump meant you were OK with his racist and misogynistic comments, that you could look past his desire to grab women “by the pussy.” But now in 2018, those words have turned into action and policy, and support for Trump might suggest someone doesn’t believe in climate change or agrees with his decision to separate parents and children at the border.
To her, it’s not that black and white. She says she thinks of Donald Trump in the same way that someone might think of Hillary Clinton; she doesn’t agree with everything he does but using the moniker is a way to find people she more closely aligns with.
“I think there’s a lot of Democrats who say, ‘I disagree with the way Hillary Clinton handled her federal investigation,’ but that doesn’t mean that someone that supports her is rubber stamping that. Just because I agree with Trump on his economic policy, on all of these policies that he sets forward, doesn’t mean I love the way that he tweets. No, it means I can have disagreements.” (Though she clarifies that she doesn’t think Trump is a racist or that he hates women.)
Really, DonaldDaters is about creating what some liberals might call a safe space. “If someone’s ever felt embarrassed or ever been talked down to because they wear a Make America Great Again hat or they’re ever told, ‘You have to swipe left because you support Trump,’ or ever been on a date that as soon as politics comes up, they either have someone walk out on them or they get a drink thrown at them, we offer a platform where that isn’t going to happen,” she says. “And I think that’s really necessary right now.”