Dining across the divide US special: ‘I got the impression he felt all Democrats were horrible. He made us sound like Bond villains’ | Life and style


Jason, 51, Crestview, Florida

Occupation Middle-school principal

Voting record Normally votes Democrat and considers himself a centrist

Amuse bouche As a “military brat”, Jason lived in lots of exciting places around the world growing up, including Ipswich. He also lived in Idaho for a time, which was a culture shock after Europe. “You should absolutely never go there”


Paul, 70, Destin, Florida

Occupation Pathologist, partially retired

Voting record Has always voted Republican. Wants Trump to win in 2024

Amuse bouche Paul was drafted into the South African army in his early 20s. One of his hobbies is wine

For starters

Jason I had a tuna salad. Normally I’d have gone crazy with the food, but I had open-heart surgery in September and I’m trying not to die. I had a glass of wine, and he had a pinot. He was classy and knew exactly what wine he wanted. I said: “Gimme the house wine.”

Paul I had a tuna salad as an appetizer. Then a “wine bar salad”, which was excellent. Jason was a lot more like me than I had expected. In his general outlook, there’s a lot of similarities.

Jason Paul was really nice. Very educated. Very opinionated. He said that at Thanksgiving last year there were people who had different views from him and they got up from the table and left. He has very strong opinions, but that doesn’t mean his opinions don’t have value.

Jason and Paul sitting at a restaurant tablePin

The big beef

Jason I feel very strongly that we should be involved in Ukraine; he does not. I think America can’t be isolationist. We have to look after our allies because they look after us. He said the money being spent on Ukraine should be spent in America. I said that’s a different pot. Just because we’re spending money on Ukraine doesn’t mean we can’t spend on other things.

Paul The only agreement we came to on Ukraine was that there’s currently no endgame. Without a solution, I believe we are drifting towards world war three.

Jason We also disagreed on the southern border. I don’t have answers, but I don’t think walls and more security will fix it.

Paul He said it is impossible to secure a border; I believe it’s totally possible. There should be a wall. Throughout history, going back to the Great Wall of China, walls have proved effective. We also talked about why immigrants don’t stay in their own country and fix it. We never got any agreement on that.

Jason He said that illegal immigrants get better healthcare benefits than poor Americans. And I said: “I’m not sure that’s true.” That upset him. He said: “Well, you gotta trust that I know what I’m talking about.” That was when he said that Obama has a social security number from a state he never lived in. I said: “Is that true? I’ve never read that.” He said it’s public knowledge.

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Jason and Paul sitting at a restaurant tablePin

Sharing plate

Jason We found some common ground on abortion. My argument was that it shouldn’t be legislated; it’s a woman’s right, and I can’t tell a woman what she can or can’t do with her body. His response was that it’s not just her body; there’s another being in there. But he did believe in early term abortion.

Paul We agreed there has to be a cut-off time. You can’t kill the baby at birth. The question that wasn’t resolved was what that cut-off should be. I’d draw a very firm line in the sand at 12 weeks. Jason wasn’t sure where he’d draw that line.

Jason and Paul sitting at a restaurant tablePin

For afters

Paul We talked about Trump. I went to the same church as him before he was president. Some people implied he only went to church after he was running for president, which was not true. I think Trump created a world of stability. I don’t think we got an agreement there.

Jason His view was that Trump kept us safer and that foreign powers didn’t act out when Trump was president because of his effectiveness. I don’t think we were better off with Trump.

Jason and Paul sitting at a restaurant tablePin


Jason We talked about critical race theory, and he thinks children are being taught to be ashamed about being American. That’s not the case. We have flags in every classroom. We start each day with the pledge of allegiance.

Paul We realised we had a lot more in common when we really talked than we first thought. The only thing he changed my mind about was that some people on his side of the fence are probably open to discussion. The country is so polarised that I’m pessimistic about the ability of the union to stay together. But if more people talk to each other as human beings there may be more common ground.

Jason I don’t think either of us changed the other person’s opinion. Except maybe when it comes to the fact that not all Democrats and Republicans are horrible. I don’t think all Republicans are horrible, but I got the impression he felt that all Democrats were. He made us sound like Bond villains.
Additional reporting: Kitty Drake

Jason and Paul ate at The Wine Bar in Destin, Florida.

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