There has been a high level of conflict in American politics in recent years. Massive disagreements over government policies, including health care, seem to have pitted one group of Americans against another. In addition, politicians in different parties now seem to dislike each other personally. This book explores how and why this style of politics developed. It argues that fundamental disagreements between Americans have been at the heart of its politics since the eighteenth century. In many ways American democracy is very different from democracy in other countries; these distinctive features have contributed to periods of bitterly contested politics throughout its history.