A stroll through a west Bloomington neighborhood shows the deep political divide that grips much of the country as election day approaches.
Brian Knuth and his family have lived in the historic neighborhood near Miler Park Zoo for 32 years. He's one of the few with a Trump-Pence sign in his yard.
“I really don’t get many negative comments,” Knuth said. “I get a lot of thumbs up, or the glorious middle finger sometimes, but we’ve all learned to live with those type of things the past four years.”
Knuth, a retired construction supplies salesman, said in 2016 his Trump signs kept getting stolen. So he put a life-size cardboard cutout of Trump in a second-story window overlooking Wood Street so his support for Trump wouldn’t be silenced.
“He may not be our ideal man, but the way I see it, you can’t listen to what he says, you have to listen to what he does,” Knuth explained. “If you look at it right now, he’s a man of promises; promises made and promises kept. I haven’t seen anybody do that in my lifetime.”
What does he say are Trump's accomplishments?
“Everything he said. He said he was going to build the wall, he’s built some of the wall that they let him,” Knuth said. “It’s been a fight all the way through. I don’t have my computer and all that in front of me to where we can do our research, but the man has done what he said.”
According to U.S. Border Patrol, about 370 miles of wall, one-fifth of the United States-Mexico border has been built. Most of it replaced existing barriers.
His neighbors have a starkly different view of Trump.
“To be honest I’ve never hated anybody more in my life,” declared Wendy Gochenaur.
Gochenaur and her partner, Ben, moved next door to Knuth three years ago. Gochenaur handles credit card disputes for State Farm. She said despite vastly different political views, they have a cordial relationship with the folks next door.
“I feel like we shouldn’t get along as well as we should, but we do, because I feel very strongly about the things I support and I know he does,” Gochenaur said.
Gochenaur doesn't have any Biden signs in her yard. Bernie Sanders was her candidate. She doesn't like seeing a life-size Donald Trump staring down at her every day every time she goes for a jog, but she figures to each his own.
“I don’t like to talk strongly about politics," she said. "I can’t argue my way out of a paper bag, so honestly, I wouldn’t want to try to change their views. I’m not that type of person.”
Gochenaur said she's more focused on issues. She has a sign supporting the state's fair tax amendment, and she hung a gay pride flag in June. Then, at the height of the racial justice moment in July, she replaced it with a large Black Lives Matter flag. She says that's when she noticed a change in her neighbor's behavior.
“(With) the gay pride flag they were like, ‘OK, whatever,’ but as soon as I put up this Black Lives Matter flag, they almost stopped talking to us,” Gochenaur said.
Knuth said he gets along fine with his neighbors, they wave and make small talk on occasion, but politics-- and their signs--are never discussed.
“We just let life roll on. I’d be happy to talk with them if they want, but there’s no reason to discuss unless they want to discuss it,” Knuth said. “There’s no reason to poke the bear.”
Knuth also has a Back the Blue sign in his yard to support the police. As for his neighbor's Black Lives Matter flag, he said he supports the concept, not the organization.
“I don’t believe they are going for the Black Lives Matter Marxist group, I believe they are just people who believe Black lives matter, so I don’t hold that against them,” Knuth said. “I believe the same. We all matter. Each and every one of us, even our furry friends.”
Gochenaur said she loves the neighborhood for its diversity -- and the mostly positive feedback she gets for her signs she considers to be a reflection of that. Knuth said many Trump supporters are afraid to put a sign in their yard, but he believes the so-called silent majority will show up and vote for Trump on election day.
Whatever happens on Nov. 3, one of these neighbors won't be happy with the outcome. And they differ over how this will all look after the election. Gochenaur said she hopes she and her neighbors--and the country--can bridge the political divide.
“There will be a rift for a while, but I don’t think it can last,” Gochenaur said. “There’s always going to be people on the fringe and those people will stay there.”
Knuth is less optimistic.
“With all the violence we’ve had this year, whether the left wants to give up, or whether the right wants to give in,” Knuth said. “I think it’s going to be a rough one this year.”
Just how rough the election turns out to be could determine whether neighbors can be friends in the future.
Knuth said he plans to vote in-person on Election Day. Gochenaur said she already has mailed in her ballot.
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