The Carbon Dividends Plan

Let’s check-in on Jake and his stone cold fox for another Poconos edition of 1 Take Jake. Today’s topic? The Carbon Dividends Plan.

Carbon Dividends: Say What?

The Carbon Dividends Plan is an excellent example of post-partisan legislation. This plan was written by the Secretary of State for George Bush and Ronald Reagan. It’s been endorsed by Stephen Hawking, The Nature Conservancy, ExxonMobil, and various prominent Democrats and Republicans.

In short, this is a rare example of a piece of post-partisan legislation tackling a very important issue the world is facing: Global warming.

The two main points of the plan are as follows; 

  1. It’s a carbon tax, affecting companies that produce CO2 emissions. 
  2. It’s a dividend, so the money from the tax would be sent directly to Americans. 

A Win for Post-Partisanship

Why do we want to highlight this? 

We don’t usually endorse legislation at ChangeRoots, because of our post-partisan ethos. But this is a rare example of both sides coming together, taking ideas, respecting each other, and coming up with a plan that will meet an incredibly important global standard. As the Paris Agreement says, we need to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 50% by 2035. 

Independent analysis of this plan says that it will meet that standard. So, we’re asking you to take a look at it: The Carbon Dividends Plan by the Climate Leadership Council. And we’re asking you to become aware of how we can actually step into a better way of producing legislation by taking good ideas from both sides.

Post-Partisan Take

In politics today, there are few examples of policies that bring both sides ideas together creatively to solve problems. That can make it tough to connect with our vision of a post partisan world, because imagining what creative solutions look like is hard.

This proposed plan is what that creative solutioning looks like. It meets the environmental goals the liberals want and the economic protections conservatives want.

Now…what if politicians found similar creative solutions for other partisan disagreements? A Post Partisan world means knowing that creative solutions exist; we just have to create them.

Follow us on Instagram for more great content like this, and download the app to let politicians know when they succeed – or fail – to achieve post-partisanship. 

A Data-Driven Way to Measure Partisanship

TL;DR: The Partisanship Score on the ChangeRoots App

This outlines the data used in the PoPa (Post Partisan) Score on the ChangeRoots App. We measure dollars donated, bipartisanship, whether candidates support an end to gerrymandering, and whether candidates support ranked choice voting (which has been proven to help depolarize the municipalities that use it).

Originally posted on Medium

How to incentivize wellbeing over political loyalty

Toxic partisans repel those in the other party with insults, contempt and political sabotage. This leads to less bipartisanship, which leads to fewer bills passed (legislative gridlock). On the other hand, post partisanship attracts legislative partners by respecting opposing views and working with anyone to improve wellbeing.

At ChangeRoots, we’ve developed a way to measure post partisanship.

Ratio of small donations to big donations

We hypothesize, on average, politicians who raise more money from small donors than big donors will act in way that prioritizes the wellbeing of all over political loyalty. By prioritizing raising small donations rather than large donations, they signal their prioritization of regular people over elites.

Support for Ranked Choice Voting

Research shows elections become less polarized after adopting something called ranked-choice voting rather than traditional winner-take-all voting. There is less negative campaigning, higher turnout and higher rates of people reporting they feel like the system is working for them.

Support ending gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is cheating. It’s abusing your power to draw congressional districts to keep your party in power. The good news, there is an effective way to end gerrymandering: appoint a nonpartisan group of experts (called independent commissions) to draw the districts instead of legislators. Studies show elections become less polarized when this happens and the district becomes more competitive, meaning nearly equal amounts of Republicans and Democrats vote for candidates.


Politicians who work with the other party the most — co-sponsoring bills together, voting together — are the least polarized candidates. They are often the ones making peace between parties and hammering out the solutions that end up getting passed.

Post Partisan Party

We consider politicians who raise money from small donors, support Ranked Choice Voting & independent commissions and work across the aisle post partisan. They exhibit the leadership we need right now. Our educated guess, more politicians acting post partisan means more bills getting passed that improve wellbeing for us all.

ChangeRoots makes it easy to reward post partisans while at the same time gives you an effective way to hold toxic partisans accountable for their actions.

What’s GNW and Why Should We Measure It?

We’re back with another Poconos edition of 1 Take Jake. Let’s call this the American Flag Episode. 

GNW: Nuts and Bolts

Our philosophy at ChangeRoots is all about post-partisanship. Our ultimate goal is to help us get to a place as a country where we prioritize the well-being of all, over political loyalty.

In post-partisanship, we want to focus on the goal of legislation – and the goal of legislation, in our mind, is to improve what we call the Gross National Well-Being. That’s what we should measure in this country versus gross national product (GDP).

Imagine a world in which we measured the emotional well-being, the physical well-being, the economic well-being, and the environmental well-being of our people.

  • Emotional well-being can be measured by suicide rates, depression rates, and anxiety rates. 
  • Environmental well-being can be measured by CO2 emissions. 
  • Physical well-being can be measured by murder and assault rates. 
  • Economic well-being can be measured by GDP, purchasing power, and similar indicators. 

GNW: Why It’s Better 

The GNW framework is more holistic. It also means that we as a people get to hold politicians accountable to actually passing legislation that improves the metrics that affect our lives.

Today’s partisan politics focuses too much on the “how,” which is the parties’ ideological attachment. Small government versus big government is a means to an end, and so they get lost in the means, rather than talking about the end – which should be the well-being of all. 

Part of what we’re doing at ChangeRoots is fleshing this out and making it easy for regular people to understand which politicians are fighting for well-being and which politicians are fighting for their political team. 

What do you think? Does measuring GNW make sense?

Post-Partisan Take

Our mission is to equip you to influence politicians to do better. To us, that means putting well-being over partisan loyalty.  

We believe in setting measurable goals, even if they’re hard to measure.  When we measure well-being, we’ll be able to ask ourselves the right questions about how politicians can do better and how WE can do better.

Toxic Partisanship Disrupts Our Healthcare System

Welcome to the Poconos edition of One Take Jake. Join Jake Sandler in a discussion about how toxic partisanship disrupts the U.S. healthcare system.

We define toxic partisanship as valuing political revenge over the well-being of people and valuing your political loyalties over the well-being of all.

Once our country recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, we hope to see vast improvements to our healthcare system. We want to prevent a crisis like this from happening again – and if it does happen again, we want to be prepared to respond more effectively.

How We Got Here

Let’s look back into recent history at Obamacare and remember how toxic partisanship caused that law to be less effective than it could have been.

  • The Democrats had control of the House, the Senate, and the White House under Barack Obama.
  • Obamacare was the signature legislation at the time. Our leaders ended up voting on strict party lines, meaning all Democrats voted “yes” and all Republicans voted “no” to pass the law.
  • This made Republicans feel like they were pushed out of the decision. Therefore, they decided to exact political revenge over the subsequent years.
  • Since Obamacare was passed, attempts have been made to overturn it and provisions have been undercut, making it a lot more expensive and making healthcare for everyone worse than it would have been, had Republicans been supportive of it.
  • Did you know that a conservative think tank wrote the original policy paper that gave birth to the idea of Obamacare? And it was first enacted under Mitt Romney, who was a Republican governor of Massachusetts? Obamacare had its roots in conservative circles!
  • But when Democrats started championing it, we theorize that Republicans became upset simply because the “other team” championed their idea. So, Republicans decided to oppose it.

This is a very simplistic analysis but it gives an important anecdote for how both parties need to work together to pass whatever massive healthcare bill is needed in the aftermath of coronavirus, to improve the well-being of all Americans.

What Needs to Happen Next

We believe that resilient policy is what happens when both parties get to contribute to the ultimate legislative view.

Looking back at history, every time a big piece of legislation has passed with at least 10% of the opposing minority party in support, that legislation stays in place for decades. But when a piece of legislation is passed on party lines, it tends to be overturned or gutted.

Part of post-partisanship and our philosophy of getting away from toxic partisanship is asking the party in power to intentionally include the perspectives of the minority party. This creates a resilient policy.

If we don’t have resilient policy, it’s like taking one step forwards and two steps backward. We need to take four steps forward and (maybe) one step backward! Resilient policy is exceptionally important to the well-being of our country and our democracy.

Stay Sane, Friends!

Consuming too much news right now can be toxic, even for political junkies like us. Remember what is in your control, what is out of your control, and spend time with the people you love.

Life in the Stimulation

We Need A Post-Partisan World Now More Than Ever

At ChangeRoots, we stand for a post-partisan world rooted in love. A world where leaders prioritize our well-being over their political loyalty. COVID-19 presents us with an opportunity to step closer into that world. It has exposed the vulnerability of our health, food, and economic systems. The first step is awareness, next comes acceptance, then action. Now is the time when we need leaders to act with respect, take the best ideas from both sides, and develop resilient systems that take care of us. 

What’s the latest?

  • Cases / Deaths: US : 80,857 / 1,163;  Italy: 80,589 / 8,215; World : 524,010 / 23,670
  • U.S. health response: Testing and tracking are crucial to curbing the spread; the U.S. isn’t doing enough of either.
  • Economic response: The Senate passed a stimulus bill twice as large as one from the 2008 financial crisis. The House votes on it tomorrow, Friday March 27th.
  • Bottom line: The more COVID-19 spreads, the more people die, the more drastic actions the government must take, and the more economic damage occurs.

Economic Impact

  • How bad is it: The initial economic decline from the COVID-19 will likely be sharper and more painful than during the 2008 financial crisis. Unemployment could reach 20%, compared to 10% in the 2008 crisis. 
  • Gov response: The Senate just passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill. This is in addition to $8 billion for vaccine research and $100 billion in economic aid already passed. Tomorrow, Friday, March 27, the House will vote on it.
  • Compared to 2008: The 2008 stimulus and industry bailout bills totaled $1.4 trillion.

What’s in the stimulus bill?
The stimulus is an attempt to boost employment and economic output through grants, loans, and tax breaks to state and local governments, individuals, and businesses both large and small.

Who gets what? Source Politico

  • Individual Americans: 
    • Single Americans who make under $75,000 would get $1,200
    • Married couples who make under $150,000 would get $2,400
    • Parents would see $500 for each child under age 17
    • People who are unemployed would get an extra $600 per week for up to four months (in addition to state unemployment) 
  • Airline and other industry loans: $500 billion
  • Hospital Industry: $100 billion 
  • State and local governments: $150 billion

How does it compare to the 2008 stimulus 

The 2008 stimulus and industry bailout bills totaled $1.4 trillion. 

  • Individuals would receive up to $600
  • Married couples would get up to $1,200
  • Those with children would be sent $300 per dependent child

Did the 2008 stimulus bill work?

The recession ended in July 2009, five months after Congress passed the stimulus. Economic growth immediately improved. It expanded 1.5% in the third quarter of 2009 after shrinking 4.4% in Q1 2009. Within 18 months, the economy added 4.1 million jobs, after losing more than 500,000 jobs a month during the recession.

Our Post-Partisan Take

This crisis is forcing both parties to remember that everyone’s common goal should be serving the American people. The Senate voted unanimously on this bill with aspects of it that each party had to compromise on. Hopefully, this can carry forward in tackling problems beyond COVID-19 and result in more prompt legislation.


Axios: White House proposes $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus packageReuters: Special Report: How Korea trounced U.S. in race to test people for coronavirus

Congress Picks Up the Bill

TL; DR: Congress passes relief bill 

By now, you’ve heard about the coronavirus (COVID-19) that is spreading across the globe. As of March 18, 2020, all 50 states are reporting cases of the virus. The total count in the US has reached 5,881 confirmed cases and 107 deaths (source NYTimes). 

With city-wide shutdowns, people are spending and earning less, businesses are suffering and it looks like we’re headed towards an economic recession. 

Congress just passed the Coronavirus Relief Bill to support citizens and the economy with overwhelming bipartisan support on March 18, 2020. President Trump signed it that night.

What’s included in the bill?  

  • Pays for coronavirus testing 
  • Requires paid sick leave for those affected
  • Helps businesses pay for sick leave
  • Strengthens unemployment insurance benefits for those fired or have hours reduced
  • Helps low-income families afford food

What’s next? 

The bill passed Congress and has been signed into law by President Trump. Trump requested a separate and huuuuuge (like $1 trillion) stimulus package and things like immediate relief in the form of $1,000 checks for all citizens (s/o to Andrew Yang) and bailouts for industries impacted like airlines. That’s what’s coming in part 3. 


  • Part 1: $8.3 billion to fund spurring coronavirus vaccine research and development (passed March 6)
  • Part 2: $100 billion largely focused on paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families (passed March 18)
  • Part 3: $750 billion – $1 trillion to prevent a recession (being drafted). This would be larger than the $700 billion economic relief bill passed during the 2008 recession. 

What’s the Post-partisan take? 

It’s a scary and trying time as information and the world around us seem to change daily. And while we’re in a state of uncertainty, we’re also looking for glimmers of hope. Congress passing a bill with such overwhelming bipartisan support? A huge glimmer. President Trump demanding relief by putting cash in the hands of struggling Americans, with Democrats supporting the demand? Triple huge glimmer. 

We’re seeing small examples of what we can happen when we put down political loyalty and pick up protecting the wellbeing of all Americans first. Now imagine if this was how we operated all the time. That’s the post-partisan world we’re fighting to create. 

WTF Does the Coronavirus Bill Mean for Me? 

If you get sick…

  • The government will pay for the test confirming you’re sick. 
  • Your health insurance (or lack of) determines how much the rest of your care cost. 
  • The government will pay your company to pay you for sick leave – if you work at a company between 50 and 500 people
  • If you are told to quarantine the government will cover part of your loss of income

If you get laid off because of coronavirus…

If you are an hourly worker and your hours get cut…

The Primary Concern: A Better Way to Hold Primaries

1 Thing Thursday : Un-Sexy Primaries

Welcome to our weekly breakdown of political issues within a post-partisan context that puts our wellbeing over political loyalty. 

TL;DR: A Better Way To Primary

The way we choose presidential nominees is like using a flip phone in the iPhone era. Statewide elections held at different times that require voters to pick one candidate lead to shitty outcomes. Don’t fret, there is a way to make primaries sexy: have each state vote on the same day using ranked-choice voting

How Primaries Work

Honestly, it’s a mess. In simple terms, delegates are chosen by the voters, and the candidate with the most delegates wins. Voters chose delegates in state primaries which are held over the course of four months from Feb to June. 

Alas, it’s not that clean (of course), because how states do delegates is weird. First, the number of delegates a state gets to award is based on population and voter turnout (weird). You can also get “bonus” delegates if you hold an election the same day as other states (hence “Super Tuesday” where 14 states held their primary on March 3rd). Some state delegates are awarded based on how districts within the state voted while others are awarded based on how the state voted overall. 

Here’s a great breakdown of the primary process. 

Sketchy tiebreaker: Superdelegates

If no candidate has been awarded more than 50% of delegates by the end of primaries, the Democrats have a sketchy tiebreaker process using superdelegates. Superdelegates are roughly 400 party elites (wealthy donors, former politicians, etc.) who get to award 15% of all delegates to whoever they want to. This last happened in 1952. 

Primaries Don’t Work So Good

The main ways in which primaries are flawed: 

People don’t vote for who they think is best. 

We are more likely to vote for the candidate who other people voted for, rather than who we individually think is best. We do this because social influence undermines our ability to make independent decisions. When we learn lots of other people made a specific decision, like voting for Joe Biden, we become far more likely to vote for Biden. This is a well-studied behavior in humans. Having states vote at different times amplifies this effect. 

States who vote later have fewer choices

Staggering when states vote for candidates leads to fewer choices for voters in later-voting states. Voters in South Carolina had 12 options in the Democratic primary. Only three Democratic candidates for President are still running. This is after less than half the states have held their primaries. 

Courtesy of Politico

Some votes don’t count

Approximately 2 million ballots were cast in the Democratic primary in advance of their state’s election day in various states. Judging from polls, somewhere between one-eighth and one-fifth of these voters chose Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg, and then learned that their favorite had dropped out of the race after they sent in their ballot. In other words, at least 240,000 people’s votes around the country now don’t count. Woof. 

People don’t vote in primaries

Less than 30% of eligible voters vote in primary elections. Our guess, voters don’t feel like spending their valuable time participating in something that doesn’t make sense to them. 

Courtesy of Politico

Post-Partisan Take

Sexy Primaries Use Ranked-Choice Voting

The confusing, drawn-out way we do primaries ain’t a good look, but there’s hope. What is sexy is using ranked-choice voting where each state votes on the same day and voters rank candidates in order of preference. 

Ranked-choice voting explained

Voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated and those who marked that candidate as No. 1 get their second choice counted instead. That can go on for several rounds until a candidate emerges with a majority.

Here are more reasons why it’s great: 

People vote for who they think is best

We increase the likelihood people vote for who they think is best by having every state vote on the same day. Voters won’t see the results of other states and be influenced by whose winning elsewhere. 

More choices

Voting on the same day means all voters across the country would get the same candidate choices rather than candidates dropping out after early state results. 

All votes count

Ranked-choice voting ensures that people have at least one of their preferences counted in the final tally. Also, voting on the same day ensures no candidates are on the ballot that are no longer running. 

Increase voter turnout

Eliminating multiple rounds (days) of voting and allowing voters to better express their preferences using ranked-choice voting increases turnout. 

Increase civility / reduce negative campaigning

Under ranked-choice voting, candidates vie for non-core voters to rank them second. Therefore candidates don’t want to offend voters who might rank them second by attacking voters’ preferred candidate. 

Reduce polarization

By increasing turnout and incentivizing candidates to earn second place ranks by voters leads to a reduction in polarization in elections using ranked-choice voting. 

Sounds too good, why aren’t we using it?

The people in power were elected using the current system, so they are scared of something new. It’s like that friend who refuses to download the latest Apple update…their battery drains super quick and their apps don’t work, but they’re too scared of change to update. 

The operating system of our democracy is outdated, we need an #upgrade. 

What can I do about it?

Glad you asked. On the ChangeRoots app, we calculate a post-partisan score for each politician. Politicians who support ranked-choice voting get mad points. So, go to the app, find politicians with a good score, show them some love by micro-donating to their campaign.

There’s a New Post Partisan Movement Building a World Rooted in Love


We created ChangeRoots to help build world rooted in love, where we stand for wellbeing over political loyalty. This we call post partisanship. 


Our mission is to equip people to influence politicians to do better and prioritize us — the people — over their political team. We empower people to support leaders that rise above partisanship, bridge divides and create resilient, win-win solutions.

How We Do That

Through the ChangeRoots app, users micro-donate to U.S. politicians or their opponents by tapping “like” or “dislike” on curated statements published on a Twitter-like feed. To make it easy for the user to reward post-partisanship, each statement featured on the feed is tagged as post-partisan, toxic, or neutral based on our proprietary tribalism framework. We gamified the app experience to reward users who encourage post-partisan behavior. We also educate our users through the Politidex, which breaks down and compares policies between politicians, quizzes, and partisan scores.

Why Will That Work

Micro-donations tied to specific statements deliver politicians clear incentives. Politicians are shown exactly why they received funding or why their opponent did. The more politicians take post partisan actions, the more funding they get from the ChangeRoots community. The more they take toxic actions, the more funding their opponent gets. It becomes a very simple equation for politicians. Act post-partisan, get funded. Act toxic, get fired.

A Movement Harnessing Existing Energy

ChangeRoots harnesses the growing energy and numbers of younger Americans who are fed up with tribalism and demanding better from leaders and government. Our generations, Millennials and Gen Z, vote with our wallets and choose what companies to buy from based on values rather than price. We feel more fulfilled when we are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues. We don’t identify with either political party in record numbers because the current system doesn’t work for us.

Meet The Next Generation Where They Are

We connect with each other online, in group chats and through social apps. We research before making decisions, spend our money as an expression of our values, and are most fulfilled when participating in movements we believe will make the world better.

ChangeRoots is designed with all of that in mind. ChangeRoots empowers us to influence politicians through a social app, provides data and sources, and enables us to vote with our wallets to incentivize politicians to put us over their self-interest.

Provide Impactful Knowledge

Millennials and Gen Z’s appetite for data, high design standards, and short attention spans mean we want information to be easily accessible and clear.

The ChangeRoots app provides a new way to compare policies and politicians. Stances are broken down in plain english and politicians can be compared side by side through an intuitive design. ChangeRoots contextualizes politicians by providing campaign finance data, professional experience, a data-driven bipartisan score, and a data-driven legislative effectiveness score. This data and design helps users quickly identify which politicians align with their values and empowers them to more confident action on what matters to them.

Empower Potent Action

After arming users with rich and relevant knowledge, ChangeRoots empowers potent action. ChangeRoots transforms one of the most effective weapons in politics — money — into a potent tool of good.

By enabling users to deliver positive or negative reinforcement through micro-donations just by tapping “like” or “dislike” on a politician’s statement, ChangeRoots puts a powerful mechanism of behavioral influence into a smartphone app. The social features pool the community’s money together into powerful force. No longer just an individual at the mercy of a broken system, the ChangeRoots movement bands together to change the power structure.

This is all made possible by a confluence of technological, legal, societal and behavioral advances. Technology recently made one-tap micro donations seamless, campaign finance rules changed to allow funds to raise money for eventual electoral opponents and Twitter normalized tracking specific statements via a feed and our generation now signals our values by how we spend our money. All of these elements come together on ChangeRoots to give our movement a real shot at making a difference. We won’t just be gathering a large group asking for vague change, we ask our community to put their money where their mouth is and make specific demands that carry real consequences.

Post Partisanship Not Tribalism

ChangeRoots provides knowledge and tools to help us move beyond partisanship into something better. ChangeRoots empowers people to lead with love, treat people with respect and help leaders develop powerful solutions to complex problems. We call this post-partisanship. A hallmark of post-partisanship is bridging behavior. Bridging unifies us and incorporates different ideas and perspectives to benefit all in society. Bridging finds common ground and seeks win-win solutions.

What we see today is post partisanship’s opposite; tribalism. A tribal mind distrusts and fears others they deem different. Tribalism divides the world into teams and believes the “other side” is inferior. Tribalism stokes fear, contempt and hate.

ChangeRoots trains both those in the movement and the leaders they influence how to bridge, not break. ChangeRoots trains people through systematic education and content delivered through the app. It trains politicians by channeling donations to them each time they act in a post partisan way while funding their opponent each time they act tribal.

Community Driven

At the end of the day, we aspire to be shepherds of this movement. We want to offer our vision for a better world, build effective tools, and offer guidance we think may help. Ultimately, this movement is driven by the people. They have the power, we’re simply here to remind them of that and make it easier for them to claim it for themselves.

Jake Sandler is CEO and cofounder of ChangeRoots, a startup on a mission to end toxic partisanship by empowering Millennials to wield micro donations as positive and negative reinforcement for politicians.

Racism, Retaliation and Othering

Racist comments are damaging, so is othering the one who said it

I want to acknowledge that I am writing this from a place of privilege. I am a straight-white-man. That said, My father is Jewish and I’ve experienced limited discrimination from being subjected to anti-semitic comments and beliefs.

By othering, I mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us”. We often forget each person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects. Instead we dismiss them as being categorically one thing. This diminishes their humanity and worthiness in our minds.

When someone simplifies us to a single aspect of ourselves, we usually retaliate. We respond in kind, by othering them back. We see this when someone makes a racist comment. Immediately people respond by labeling them as a racist. You might be thinking, “well of course, they are a racist.” There is a critical distinction between being called a racist vs being told your comment is racist. When called a racist, people feel they are being simplified and attacked. When called out for making a racist comment, pyschologically speaking, people don’t feel so attacked and are willing to engage in a constructive dialogue about it. They may not have realized that their comment was offensive or the magnitude of hurt it caused. Labeling them a racist cuts off their ability to constructively reflect.

When you other another person you tell your subconscious that individual can no longer be anything except the label you’ve bestowed upon them. If you call someone a racist you are saying they embody racism, have always been racist and will always be racist. This cuts off your own ability to believe in their ability to change and to become a better version of themselves. Similarly when someone is othered, they feel their own humanity attacked, which through a perverse quirk of human psychology makes them double down on whatever they feel attacked about.

Put simply, calling someone a racist makes them more likely to say racist things.

What can be done differently?

Conversely, if you highlight the specific action that offended and tell that person how it offended you, studies have shown the individual is far more likely to empathize with your perspective, genuinely apologize and change their future behavior.

Trump’s comments towards four congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” illustrates this point. His racist comment othered not only those congresswomen, but also those who identify and support them. He disrespected them and diminished millions of people’s humanity in the process. In retaliation, most of those congresswomen and their supporters called Trump a racist. This othered Trump and all of his supporters, diminishing millions of people’s humanity to the single label as ‘a racist’. Both sides double downed, traded angry comments and feel more animosity towards each other than they did before.

The high road sucks, yet it’s our best hope

We are in a cycle of attacking, labeling and othering one another. When someone offends you, it’s hurtful, angering, heartbreaking and infuriating. It is a very human and completely understandable reaction to respond by othering them for their offensive behavior. Yet, as Gandhi put it:

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”

When someone blinds you, you have a choice. You can other the person in retaliation. Or you can call out the specific action, tell them how it offended you and extend an offer to work with them. One furthers the cycle while the other helps break it.

You are probably thinking that it is unfair for those who are offended to be the ones to rise above — you’re not wrong. Yet truly breaking this cycle — to achieve a better society — requires those subject to offense to be courageous. It requires people to rise above and to lead by example.

Related Reads

Check out When Labeling Racism Doesn’t Work:

“By focusing on words and actions instead of on labels, you may be able to get individuals who show racial insensitivity to rethink their behavior. By calling them racist, however, you’re much more likely to get an empty apology and defensive rationalizations, all while the person who offended you remains as clueless about racism as ever…

Sometimes “racism” isn’t the best word to describe someone’s behavior because it isn’t specific enough. Rather than using a word such as “racist,” perhaps you want to point out to a friend that his behavior stereotyped [a specific race] or that the comment he made…was xenophobic.”

When Is It Right to Call Someone ‘Racist’? is less clear, but has some good nuggets:

“The problem with “racism” is that it’s a personal insult, and it’s almost as impossible to prove it as to disprove it. It’s not a terribly illuminating term, either: If you call me a racist, you haven’t really described anything I’ve done that’s objectionable. You’ve just somehow designated me, and my so-far unchallenged arguments, outside the pale, so to speak.”

Jake Sandler is a cofounder of ChangeRoots, a millennial focused startup on a mission to root out the toxic partisanship infecting our politics by enabling people to micro donate to politicians (or their future challengers) based on their statements and actions.

The Time Has Come To Take Toxic Partisanship Head On


Things are f — ed up

  1. Toxic partisans have contempt for those in the other party, insult them, won’t listen to ideas outside their party, refuse to compromise and put their own interests over the country.
  2. We estimate three-quarters of elected officials are toxic partisans while only one-third of regular people display these characteristics.
  3. Toxic partisanship leads to zero-sum thinking, revenge politics and gridlock.
  4. If we don’t reverse toxic partisanship things will get worse.

But…we’ve got a plan

  1. Educate: We teach people about what toxic partisanship looks like in real life by translating dense research into easily digestible content.
  2. Identify: We identify toxic partisans by using public to score elected officials on a partisan scale.
  3. Empower: We discourage toxic behavior by enabling people to micro fund those running against toxic partisans
  4. Connect: We connect leaders and voters who share post partisan values to power up the movement.
  5. Enjoy: We design the app as a game to maximize delight.

Tell me more about this toxic partisanship thing

You’ve seen it, you’ve felt it. You can detect a toxic partisan by the way they speak and by the way they act.

Toxic partisans not only look down on those in the other party, they have contempt for them. Toxic partisans love to trigger political debates (in person or on social media) so they can prove how “right” they are. They genuinely believe they know what’s best for the country. They believe all of our problems would be solved if everybody else would shut up and just follow their advice.

Toxic partisans don’t need to hear the other side because they’ve already figured out why it’s flawed. Some toxic partisans are more polite, but you can smell their political righteousness anyway.

We think of toxic partisanship as a contagious disease. It infects Americans from every walk of life and political ideology. We especially see it running rampant among those in positions of power and in the media. The more people are exposed to toxic partisanship, the more it spreads within them. It leads to zero-sum thinking, revenge politics and gridlock. To put it bluntly, toxic partisanship is ripping our country apart.

At ChangeRoots, we are attempting to bring intellectual rigor to how we define and evaluate toxic partisanship. We analyze a spectrum of research to understand the nuances. While it’s still very much a work in progress, our current model identifies seven core characteristics of toxic partisanship:

  1. Ideological orthodoxy — refusal to entertain views or solutions outside a predetermined set of ideals or compromise.
  2. Contempt for the other side — a mixture of hate and disgust for those in the other party characterized by insulting them or using dehumanizing language.
  3. Focus on differences — maximizing attention on that which divides us from those in other political parties.
  4. Self-interest — prioritizing votes, statements and actions to win re-election over what is in the best long-term interest of constituents.
  5. Zero-sum mindset (win-lose) — the belief anything the other party considers a “win” is necessarily a loss for your side. And vice versa.
  6. Assuming negative intent — assuming the worst possible interpretation of any action or statement by someone in the other party.
  7. Self-righteousness — the belief in a single ‘right’ and moral way to act or think, your way.

Take a moment and think of someone you know personally or an elected official who exhibits these qualities. We all know far too many. To be clear, toxic partisanship has nothing to do with which party you identify with. There are equal amounts of toxic partisan Democrats as there are toxic partisan Republicans.

So how big is the problem?

landmark study conducted on polarization by Common Cause identified seven distinct groups of Americans they call our “Hidden Tribes of America: distinguished not by who they are or what they look like, but what they believe.”

The study broke down the country into the Wings (the most extreme) and the Exhausted Majority (everybody else).

“[For those in the Wings] tribalism runs deep in their thinking. Their distrust and fear of the opposing side drives many of the people in these groups, and they have especially negative opinions of each other. When people today speak about how Americans seem to hate each other, they’re usually talking about the opinions and behaviors of the Wings…

In contrast, the remaining two-thirds of Americans show more diversity in their political views, express less certainty about them, and are more open to compromise and change — even on issues that we all tend to consider highly polarizing.”

Hidden Tribes

At ChangeRoots, we consider the 15% most left-wing and 15% most right-wing part of the population to be toxic partisans. While toxic partisans represent only 30% of the population, they, unfortunately, dominate the national conversation and represent a much larger portion of the media and elected officials. We estimate as much as 75% of elected officials and political journalists are toxic partisans, according to our definition.

How do we fight toxic partisanship?

Now that we’ve defined it and better understand the danger it poses, the time has come to develop an antidote. We can’t wait until we perfectly understand all of the different ways toxic partisanship manifests. We have to begin reversing its spread immediately to revitalize our republic.

Post partisanship is our proposed antidote. Post partisanship is a set of values and characteristics that represent what our best leaders should embody. It is the opposite of toxic partisanship. It is the Ariel to the toxic Ursula.

Photo by Jules D. on Unsplash

What actually is post partisanship?

We want leaders that focus on common ground, look for win-win solutions, make decisions based on evidence and show civility towards all people, including those in the other party. To put it simply, it is a leader who we want our children to be like when they grow up.

While our research continues, we’ve stood on the shoulders of many great thinkers to develop an initial set of characteristics that represent post partisanship:

  1. Evidence-based decision making — using the best available research evidence — in addition to citizen preferences and personal values — to develop, explain and vote on policy. Regardless of party platform.
  2. Adventurous civility — Respecting the dignity and ideas of those with whom you profoundly disagree, while acting upon your own beliefs.
  3. Common ground focus — maximizing attention on that which we share with those in other political parties.
  4. Public service — Doing what you believe is in the best interest of the public even if it hurts your chances of re-election (e.g. pissing off big donors to do what you believe is right)
  5. Non-zero sum mindset (win-win) — The belief there is always an outcome where all stakeholders benefit and a commitment to put in whatever effort it takes to discover that outcome.
  6. Assuming positive intent — Assuming the best possible interpretation of any action or statement by someone, until proven otherwise.
  7. Humbleness — The belief there is not one right way to do things and the openness to being persuaded to adopt a different approach.

Now take a moment to consider someone in your life or someone you admire that exhibits these qualities. How do they treat people? How do they lead? We each know someone who embodies post partisanship. Imagine if all of our elected officials acted like that person you are thinking of. What could our country accomplish then?

As with toxic partisanship, post partisanship exists in both parties. There are equal amounts of post partisan Democrats as there are post partisan Republicans. You don’t need to give up your party in order to act in a post partisan manner.

Post partisanship is a set of values unattached to any party’s platform. It is a code of behavior that exemplifies our very best.

Okay, but how do we actually inject post partisanship into the country?

ChangeRoots’ mission is to reverse the toxic partisanship infecting our country. We believe the most effective way to do so is by getting millions of people to reward post partisan behavior and discourage toxic behavior. We envision a world where each time a politician takes a post partisan action, millions send them a quarter. For each toxic action, millions send their challenger a quarter. Do good, get rewarded. Act toxic, suffer the consequence.

I know at first glance that the idea of adding more money to politics as a cure for toxicity seems counterintuitive. Even offensive. We felt the same way. However, as we thought deeply about what truly motivates politicians. it became clear to us this could actually help.

Right now, most politicians are primarily motivated by getting re-elected. This is the problem. They care about their seat in Congress more than doing what is right for the country. It hit us, why not use that fact to our advantage? So we asked ourselves three crucial questions:

  1. What if we created a way where it was in the self-interest of politicians to act post-partisan?
  2. What if, by leading with integrity, treating people with respect, being evidence-based and working across the aisle, a politician could actually raise more money, from more people, than they could any other way?
  3. What if, when they acted like a toxic partisan, they triggered huge sums of money being sent to their next opponent?

In this reality, it becomes a simple calculation for a politician: Act post partisan, get elected. Act toxic partisan, get fired.

I’m skeptical, why will this work?

Behavioral science teaches that potent feedback is immediate, specific and consequential. If feedback is all three of those things, behavior change is likely. Think about how you teach a dog or a child.

Micro donating in reaction to specific actions makes feedback potent. If politicians don’t wise up, then we keep funding their opponent until they lose election. We want to keep things simple; good leaders are amplified, toxic leaders are fired.

Make Good Trouble

Civil rights leader John Lewis once urged people that “sometimes you have to get in good trouble to make a difference that matters.” All we know is that we’re out here making some trouble — we hope you do the same.