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Healthcare reform: America, the violent? How the political parties are complicit.

Throughout US history, major change has begotten radical rhetoric from both political parties. Healthcare reform is no different – and heated words can sometimes spark violence.

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Thomas Jefferson, shown here in an 1807 portrait by Gilbert Stuart, was called the Antichrist by members of the Federalist Party, suggesting that high intra-party tensions are not new to American politics.

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Spitting, brick-throwing, and name-calling. Is this what political discourse in America has come to?

Well, given that Thomas Jefferson was called the Antichrist by members of the Federalist Party, the pitched emotions at a major political crossroads perhaps aren't so surprising – nor are threats against lawmakers.

Instead, this moment is a part of what the American political process is, say some political analysts: Every major shift in policy or political direction is a revolution in miniature, with both sides retreating toward the radical to rhetorically demonize the other.

The Republicans ratchet up the anger over the country's changing direction. The Democrats play to fears by painting large swaths of Americans as radicals, racists, and rabble-rousers.

"It's part of the balancing act this country has faced the whole time," says John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. "If we only had moderate rhetoric, how do you create change? When something is radically wrong, how do you not do something radical to get it back on track?"

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