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How Roommates Can Disagree On Politics — And Stay Friends


This political acrimony doesn't just play out in Congress. It also divides families and friends. My niece lives here in Washington. She's a Democrat. And her really good friend and roommate is a staunch Republican. I wanted to know how they make it work, so they came by our studios to talk to each other about politics and friendship.

ALEXANDRA URIARTE: My name is Alex Uriarte. I'm 28 years old. I'm a congressional staffer for a member of the Democratic Party.

STEVEN CRUZ: My name's Steven Cruz. I am 26, recently turned, and I run the digital operations for a conservative outreach group.

URIARTE: I remember meeting Steven for the first time while we were still in college.

CRUZ: At this point I had just started working with our student government when we were hosting a big event, and Alex worked on campus. And she saved my life because all of our equipment was nowhere to be found and I was running around, trying to figure out what to do, and so Alex saved the day then. And so I remember her fondly.

She had been living in D.C. for about a year before I moved to the city. A mutual friend of ours was like, oh, you should meet Alex. And it came time to move for both of us, coincidentally. And I remember we were having - we were having brunch and we were just talking about life and things. And a few mimosas down we're like, we should do this. And a month later, we were both moved in together.

URIARTE: We both love wine. We both love to have dinner parties. We have friends from all across the political and, you know, social spectrum. And so we found ourselves to be the kinds of people who could make a little hub out of our home.

CRUZ: I don't want to say it's a politics-free zone because it's completely the opposite, but it's certainly strife-free. So, like, we - there's no topic that's off limits. And sometimes that gets a little contentious.

URIARTE: We both have the same goals for what we would like for other people - to live better lives, to have more elevated lives. And how we go about doing that is very different. And that is where sometimes things get tense because there are logical pathways for how I see things and how he sees things.

CRUZ: I'll give you an example. The night we heard Fidel Castro died, we had a bit of a disagreement on how we approached things. And it's funny because both being from Miami - and while I myself am not of Cuban descent feel very, very strongly about the plight of the Cuban people. So we started with agreements like, OK, well, you know, the dictator is dead. Hopefully it's a new day for democracy and progress in Cuba. But then we really started talking about what that meant for U.S.-Cuba relations. And there we started disagreeing. And we got a little animated. I mean...

URIARTE: (Laughter).

CRUZ: ...You know, we started going back and forth about the measures that the Obama administration had taken.

URIARTE: As a - you know, the daughter of Cubans and as someone who cares a lot about the Cuban community, I still supported the moves that were being made to kind of help free up Cuba.

CRUZ: We kind of started honing in on a lot of what that meant. There was some cheering that went on at home. I might or might not have been dancing around our apartment.

URIARTE: You made Cuban food.

CRUZ: (Laughter) We started frying things. And so it was just this whole big hoopla. But we kept coming back to the fact that we just disagreed fundamentally on how our strategy on Cuba was being carried out because of what I consider a healthy dose of skepticism. I just did not and do not see our approach there bearing fruit. Thankfully, amidst wine and some contraband bottle of Cuban rum...

URIARTE: (Laughter).

CRUZ: ...We decided that on the balance this was a good thing even if we disagreed on the particulars.

URIARTE: You can't hate people if you know their story. That's something that I've heard before, and that's something that has stuck with me. And the source of our friendship has come from knowing each other and respecting each other and admiring each other and how we feel about things and how we think about things.

CRUZ: As Alex mentioned, it's very difficult to dislike somebody or distrust their motives when you can understand where they're coming from and where they're trying to go.

URIARTE: That is the nature and the flow of how we are as friends and as roommates and as people who really genuinely care about each other.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Alexandra Uriarte and Steven Cruz. They're housemates in Washington, D.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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