This past week we saw Kamala Harris and Cory Booker announce their intent to run for president of the United States. During the same week, the billionaire founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, announced that he is considering running as an independent. Harris, Booker, and Schultz join a field that already includes Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren. When it’s all said and done, there will probably be more than 20 candidates on the Democratic side alone. The sad thing is that as each candidate comes forward, the ideologues immediately start attacking anyone who differs even slightly from the party platform. This happens on both sides. Try to run for president as a Republican if you have moderate views on gun control or as a Democrat if you don’t support Medicare for all. Candidates today are not allowed their own viewpoints, but rather, are required to support the “party line” without hesitation. This is how elections become personality contests rather than a test of ideas. 20 candidates running for president could be great if that meant we will have a strong variety of ideas and priorities to choose from. But that is not likely to happen. Instead, the election will go to the candidate who we like the most or who can articulate the party line with the most conviction. This is how we end up with a television star as president rather than a person who has intelligent, fresh ideas and the leadership skills to put them into action. This may sound naïve, but I hope that this time we can withhold our immediate judgment and instead try to listen to what these candidates have to say. Let’s encourage new ideas and give a fair chance to explain them. I truly believe that the fate of our democracy might depend on it.