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Conveying how the American political system is both extraordinary and complex, the authors explain in a simple and straightforward way that there is a rationale embedded in the U.S. political system. This underlying logic helps students see why political institutions are structured the way they are, and why the politicians who occupy them, and the citizens who monitor and respond to their actions, behave as they do. Kernell and Jacobson analyze political institutions and practices as imperfect solutions to problems facing people who need to act collectively. Throughout the text, the authors highlight these collective action problems, including the conflict over values and interests and the costs associated with finding and agreeing on a course of action. They describe how the choices made to resolve problems at one moment affect politics in the future, long after the original issues have faded. They emphasize the strategic nature of political action, from the Framers' careful drafting of the Constitution to contemporary politicians' strategic efforts to shape policy according to their own preferences.