ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - It seems like a recipe for disaster—a die-hard democrat living with a staunch conservative, amid one of America’s most divisive political cycles.
But Cole Birkeland and Nick Solheim say their bi-partisan living arrangement is both educational and enjoyable.
“I’d rather be rooming with someone who I have a shared passion with rather than someone who I wasn’t able to connect with,” said Birkeland, the president of University of Northwestern’s College Democrats.
The pair first met in a public speaking class freshman year. Despite their differences, they decided to hang out, and after roaming the Mall of America talking politics for more than an hour, they became fast friends.
“We both want to do what’s best for America, we just have different ideas of how to get there,” said Solheim, the chairman of the College Republicans. “I think other people might be more malicious to our politics than we are to each other.”
Solheim and Birkeland both volunteer with their parties and door knock for their candidates. They say living with each other has taught them patience and understanding.
“Being surrounded by conservatives—people who have different opinions than me—helped me gain respect for the other side,” said Birkeland who is the minority at the largely conservative, Christian university.
Both said they often meet people who only surround themselves with like-minded people, to which they think contributes to a growing divide among political parties and a lack of action in congress.
The pair hopes sharing their story of respect will inspire members of congress and the Minnesota legislature to work better together.
“We’re Americans before we’re republicans and Americans before we’re democrats. We both want to see progress. We both want to see success,” said Birkeland.