Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=102723
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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Rose

Jeremy Rose, now a project manager for a Web development company, has worked on a number of Republican campaigns but now his political battles take place at home as well as the office.


Roommates are friends, but not political soulmates

by Jen Thomas
Oct 30, 2008



Erik Severinghaus and Jeremy Rose live under the same roof in central Lakeview but when it comes to politics, they couldn’t be farther apart.

“We’ve made a decision not to discuss policy in the house,” said Rose, 23, the political director for the Chicago Young Republicans and an avid supporter of Sen. John McCain.

Severinghaus, a registered Democrat who voted for Sen. Barack Obama during early voting, said living with a GOP spokesman isn't difficult but maintaining their friendship means avoiding political debates or launching into conversations about the issues.

“Political philosophy didn’t come into play when I was looking for a roommate,” said Severinghaus, 26, a sales executive for IBM. “I’m not nearly as politically involved as Jeremy, but partisan association wasn’t a major concern.”

But as the campaign heated up and Rose started bringing home more of his McCain gear, Severinghaus had to speak up and put a stop to the apartment's gradual redecoration.

“I had to take down his John McCain sign from the window and throw the yard signs from the living room into his room,” said Severinghaus, who is quick to note that he is not a liberal but a leaning libertarian.

“Every once in awhile I have to empty out the propaganda and empty out the Fox News clips from the DVR,” he said.

Even at its worst, the good-natured war between the friends, who have known each other about two years, doesn’t go past mild jeering and the occasional jab.

“As the campaign got longer and longer, Erik became more and more an Obama person,” said Rose, who moved into Severinghaus’ apartment at the beginning of August. “We’ve been in arguments where we have to say, ‘Let’s stop for the sake of our friendship.’ But I like to say Erik doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

While partisan T-shirts and buttons are acceptable, former political staffer Rose isn’t allowed to keep his McCain/Palin poster in the apartment’s window.

“My proposal is to have one for each candidate in each window, but Erik never got around to putting an Obama poster up so I had to take mine down,” Rose said.

Severinghaus said his enthusiasm for the Illinois senator has little to do with loyalty to the Democratic Party and, though he did vote for John Kerry in 2004, he doesn’t totally align himself with the party’s politics.

“Erik’s mostly been turned off of the Republican Party because of Bush,” Rose said.

“I just think it’s time for a change,” Severinghaus said.

Though the roommates agree on a number of issues, their politics fly in completely different directions when it comes to who is better suited to run the country.

“McCain has a record I can trust while Obama doesn’t have a record. I’m surprised Erik can get behind him,” Rose said.

After the election, tensions are likely to ease but the war will not be completely over.

“I won’t rub it in too much when we win because I think that will ruin our friendship,” Rose said.