In San Diego, Stanford housemates keep the peace by agreeing to disagree

By Galen Lew

The four roommates easily agreed on their menu for the night’s dinner: grilled chicken and rice. However, talking over their political differences would be a more difficult challenge.

When Stanford announced a virtual Autumn Quarter, college friends Ben Zuercher, Marco Merolla, Dan McColl and Zack Lagrange decided to retreat to the warm coast of Southern California, renting a three-bedroom house in the heart of San Diego’s Mission Beach.

Lagrange, 23, the group’s self-proclaimed grill master and food connoisseur, comes from a conservative household, one that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and plans to do the same in this election. The Biology major struggles to navigate his passion for environmental conservation with his political views. McColl, 21, comes from a similar background, and the Management, Science, and Engineering major feels strongly about his ties to the Republican Party.

The other half of the friend group is on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Zuercher, 22, an International Relations major, has always held strong opinions in support for Democrats such as Bernie Sanders. Merola, 21, comes from a relatively bipartisan family, but the Philosophy major has chosen to vote as a Democrat in 2020 and loudly voices his disdain for Trump.

As November 3rd approaches, the Mission Beach housemates feel as though their party affiliations and choice of candidate have become ever-more divisive topics of conversation. Especially during their dinner times.

On this particular night, as Lagrange prepped the chicken he would grill, McColl explained: “The conversation gets going after a couple of beers and a belly full of food.”

One-off comments about anything political are what plunge the group into topics like police brutality or their individual trust in the media. The conversations can get pretty heated. “We went one time until 3 a.m.,” Zuercher said. “I mean, we had a couple of drinks in us and we were pretty exhausted at that point.”

It’s like fighting fire with fire, and as they all know they’re not going to change each other’s opinions at this point. “Usually the conversation ends by agreeing to disagree or we just stop talking overall, then we call it a night,” Merolla said. “We plan to tread lightly around each other for the next couple of days.”

To them, some things are better left unspoken. And with Election Day drawing closer, Zuercher and Merolla admit that they often have to hold their tongues. “Sometimes it’s just better for our friendships and roommate situation if we stay silent,” Zuercher said. McColl and Lagrange feel the same way, explaining that “it’s better not to get into it.”

What will they be doing next Tuesday night? They plan to all go for a drink at their local bar and then get home and go to bed early.

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