I may be making an assumption here, but based on the letters I have received since I began writing this column, I believe most of my readers identify with the Democratic Party when it comes to politics. If nothing else, many of the letter writers tend to “lean left.”

Many people I have spoken to who identify as Democrats have flatly told me they are not paying attention to the Republican circus happening before our eyes. I write to implore anyone reading this to pay attention to the Republican debates being waged right now.

The 17 candidates vying for the Republican Party nomination have somewhat divergent views on immigration, mass incarceration, women’s reproductive rights, the welfare state, public schooling, debates surrounding “Black Lives Matter” and a host of issues that directly affect people of color and poor people in this country.

When I have asked people what they think about the Republican field, many do not believe any of the candidates have a snowball’s chance of beating Hillary Clinton in a general election next November. I kindly remind them that, one, Clinton has yet to secure the Democratic nomination, and two, many people thought the same way in 1980, when an actor (and two-time governor of California) ran against a sitting president. We know Ronald Reagan not only won the election but also was reelected in 1984.

Fast-forward to 2000, many people again could not imagine the slacker son of a president who had tanked every company he had ever managed, as well as the state of Texas when he was governor, beating a vice president who had been in office eight years. We now clearly know the effects of George W. Bush: two wars, a flat-lining economy and animosity from nations and former allies across the globe.

No matter how ridiculous the Republican primary may seem right now, it is imperative to pay attention to the rhetoric from the right. The general election is roughly 15 months away, but one of the 17 candidates could actually become the next president of the United States. Websites such as RealClearPolitics.com haave a comprehensive list of the candidates and their shifting polling percentages. Contrary to what the media are portraying, several candidates who disagree with a certain billionaire from New York City are waging serious campaigns.

So whether you are a Republican trying to decide who to vote for or a Democrat who needs to know who your potential opponent may be next fall, start reading and researching these people. Spend five minutes each day looking at their voting and legislative histories during their tenure as governor or senator. For those who have never held elected office, it is important to research what they have written and interviews they have conducted. The stakes are high, and no one can afford to let November 2016 arrive without preparation.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.