Whenever someone says they all look or sound alike to me they are really saying that they haven’t seen or heard enough to differentiate one from another. One race often says this of another, but it just means that they don’t know enough members of the race. The cure is obviously to meet more people of that race. The problem is that some people never take enough time or have enough opportunities to do this. This applies to other things as well. For example at first I thought that all jazz music sounded alike. As a child I had an uncle who was such a jazz aficionado that he could listen to the first few moments of a jazz record and tell you who was playing. I was amazed. After I had listened to enough I found that I could do the same thing. Sometimes it was the sound they made with their instrument or certain favorite licks they put in their licks or other idiosyncrasies they had. I remember a moment in high school when we were watching some short film that had a jazz score. My best friend at the time challenged me to identify who was playing the score. I listened for a few moments then told him. When the film credits confirmed my answer, it was one of my secretly proud moments.

I was reminded of this inability to differentiate this week as Cory Booker joined an already crowded, yet sure to expand, field of Democratic hopefuls for the presidency in 2020.  Sure some have labels attached like “centrist,'”progressive,” “conservative,” but I do not have enough information to see the differences among them. I am sure that this will change as the candidates supporters find “opposition research,” Republicans wail, Wikileaks leaks, the media uncover things, candidates with higher name recognition enter the race, and of course as the Russian government secretly intervenes. In fact I am sure some of this has already begun. With 21 months until the election I expect we will be flooded with information and disinformation about each candidate as well as pundit and pollster opinions on who could win and who could not. Currently we have little more than stereotypes, campaign speeches, and cherry-picked moments from their pasts to go on. Personally I need more than that to choose who I will support with my time and money.

Race and gender play an enormous, some would say inordinate, role in United States politics. Will Americans vote for an African American, a Latino, a woman? Where will each candidate stand on the issues? Who will show or has shown the behaviors I desire in a candidate? Where does the money come from to support the candidate? How will I ever sort this all out?

I will be open to and listen to and observe all of the candidates not just the ones I have a predilection to favor. I will pay no attention to the pre-existing labels, try to see beyond the media presentations of the candidates and not react to the roller coaster, horse race analogies, nor “gotcha” moments, to see the consistencies that each has show. I will try to ignore the shrill shouts of supporters like the “Bernie boys” and the Republicans are wasting their time if they expect me to listen to their arguments. I will try to filter out “fake news” by running down the source of stories, checking with reliable fact finding sites like Snopes or Politifact, and using my historian training or my own common sense. I will not leap to conclusions because of things people post on social media or send me by email.

I will choose a candidate to support and I will work with all my heart to see that my candidate wins. However, if my candidate does not win I pledge to support whoever the Democratic candidate will be. I will become what they used to call a “yellow dog” Democrat. If the Democrats nominate a yellow dog I will vote for it. It is that important to end Trump’s reign.

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