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Presidential Candidates Ask Voters if They're Better Off Today

By Robert Pocklington, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – Because it's baseball season, I don't get to listen to much prime time political talk. That's all right though. I get caught up in the mornings on the way into work as I'm caught up in rush hour traffic. Last week George W. and the Republicans asked me if I was ready for a return of good character and values in America. I'm still thinking about that. This morning the president asked me if I'm better off than I was eight years ago. I have time to think about that right now, because I'm stuck in a traffic jam caused by road construction. There's a lot of that going on in north Texas: old dirt streets are getting paved, hog-back blacktop roads are getting widened and flattened, and highways are getting sleeker and faster - at least I think they are. It's hard to tell with all this construction going on. Eight years ago it took me about twenty minutes to get to work; today it takes forty-five, and it's not even raining. Am I better off?

Break lights ahead. Full stop. I might as well take a minute to look around me, and enjoy the diminishing view of the north Texas prairie. Off to my right used to sit the most idyllic little ranch: a low slung house, a little stock tank, and cattle sheltering in the shade of feathery mesquite trees. The cattle are gone now. So are the trees and the house. A high-rise building occupies their space. It's not a bad building - not particularly ugly as such things go. Its lines are mildly interesting, and its windows reflect the hazy Texas sky. Still, with all due respect to the architect, my view isn't as nice as it was eight years ago. I turn away and look to my left. Over here the land rolls a little, down to the Trinity River. I used to just make out the line of cottonwoods and river oaks a couple of miles off and wonder what wildlife might be hunkered down in there watching me. I can't see that line of trees any more. Now the land is blighted with big houses marked with a come-on billboard hailing "Mansionettes from the low $500,000s." With all due respect to the architects and builders, these houses are ugly, ugly and pretentious and smug.

Traffic is moving again. I move with it. Up ahead there's a traffic cop with his radar gun holstered. No need for it today. I pass him. He looks grumpy, and I wonder why. Surely, he's better off than he was eight years ago. Maybe he lives in one of those ugly houses from the low $500,000s, maybe next door to a teacher, or a plumber, or an army sergeant, or the woman driving that forty ton road grader.

My thoughts are interrupted by the president again. Now he's telling me that if I want to live like a Republican, I should vote for a Democrat. I think about that as I pass another hyper-super-duper-thing-stuff mart with a parking lot the size of Peoria. I think about that, and I think about the politics I'll miss for a baseball game again tonight. Am I better off than I was eight years ago? If I want to live like a Republican,maybe I'd better get my values checked.