Madeleine Baldwin, 31, and Rhiannon Payne, 28, flew from their hometown of San Francisco to Des Moines, IA, a few days ago to help drum up support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses this Monday. Laying on the bed in their hotel eating Cracker Barrel delivery, they watched news about the impeachment trial on MSNBC and became increasingly frustrated with Republican behavior. That’s when, out of boredom and distraction, Payne scrolled to Bumble on her phone.
“I was like, ‘I wonder what the guys are like in Iowa,'” Payne told Refinery29. Then a light bulb went up over her head. “I pulled out Bumble and realized they were all possible voters.”
To be clear, neither of the women was looking for love or a fling. Payne was focused on volunteering. Baldwin is in a committed relationship. “I made sure to be super-clear about that because I didn’t want it to feel like a catfish situation,” Baldwin told Refinery29. “I genuinely sought to have meaningful conversations about caucusing and the issues they cared about, and figured this was the perfect digital venue to facilitate those conversations: geo-targeted, straightforward. My boyfriend was aware and fully supportive. I even sent him screenshots when I’d get a new commit!”
So instead of getting dates, they spoke with supporters, signed up newly minted Elizabeth Warren fans, and tried to win over others. Baldwin said she spoke with around 50 men and got around eight “commits,” meaning they committed to caucus for Warren. “I got close to eight new commits, which is WILD,” she said. “It was the best ‘commit-to-caucus’ ratio I’ve seen in any kind of organizing.” Payne said she got well over a dozen guys to lean toward or commit to Warren.
Since Friday, they have messaged hundreds of men on both Bumble and Tinder. And they’re not the only ones: Anecdotal reports of people using Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, and other apps for canvassing, abound. “As we messaged people and initiated conversations around caucusing, we were shocked at how many people were willing to engage and have meaningful conversations about the issues they care about and who they’re considering,” said Baldwin.
“Using Bumble in particular as a tool for outreach, I’ve found that it’s important just to be genuine, open, and respectful of the person you’re talking to,” said Payne, who said this was her first time volunteering for a political campaign. “I just ask them questions, like who they’re caucusing for and what issues are important to them, and I try to share information and share my own story.”
One guy in particular, she said, wasn’t super-open to talking about politics at first, but by the end of the conversation, he was really interested in Warren’s platform and ready to look into it more. As an electrician, worker’s rights and labor unions were a big issue for him, and when Payne shared Warren’s plan for empowering workers and raising wages, it won him over.
Our #BumbleForWarren game in Des Moines is strong, y’all! 🔥 Talked to some really cool people & got at least a dozen undecided folks to lean/commit for @ewarren! (Before > After) #IowaForWarren https://t.co/7eLZG322ux pic.twitter.com/xuEdHuZ7aT— Rhiannon Payne 🌙 (@rhiannon_io) February 2, 2020
In all honesty, @rhiannon_io and I have gotten a bunch of people who were on the fence to now lean or commit to caucus for Warren on Bumble and Tinder. We’re seriously encouraged by the conversations we’ve been having. Iowa likes Warren. It just might need an extra nudge 😉— Maddy-care for all #LFG🗽 (@madsmaru) February 1, 2020
Look, idk who I’ll be caucusing for tomorrow night after my man @CoryBooker but @ewarren folks out here organizing and meeting folks where they at. Gotta respect the hustle…bumble? #IowaCaucuses pic.twitter.com/sifDq0ny2a— Zach (@Zach_Bernstein) February 2, 2020
A Bumble representative told Refinery29 the app welcomes political discussion: “On Bumble, we’re huge advocates for being your most authentic self on the app — be who you are, and the right person will gravitate towards that. We want to empower our users to openly discuss things that are important to them, including their political beliefs.”
But — plot twist — Payne said that on Monday morning, she received a message from Bumble saying she was blocked, because, according to the screenshot she provided, “we’ve received several reports about your behavior on our platform.”
Payne took it in stride, saying it was worth getting banned for the sake of educating people about Warren, a personal hero of hers. “I’m honestly surprised I wasn’t banned sooner,” she said. “I kind of expected it might happen, since I’m using Bumble in a non-typical way to talk to guys en masse. I literally had over 500 matches over the weekend, and hit most of them. It’s a bit annoying, though!”
Asked why Payne had been blocked, the Bumble representative said: “On Bumble, our users are more than welcome to discuss topics that are important to them in an effort to connect with others on a genuine level. However, according to our guidelines, if users copy and paste the exact same message to several matches, they’re likely to be banned for spam-like behavior. We encourage our users to read profiles, learn about other people’s interests, and send an appropriate, relevant message to each match.” The rep added that Payne is more than welcome to get in touch with Bumble’s customer support team.
We reached out to the Elizabeth Warren campaign and will update this story when we hear back.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?