As an ethnically heterogeneous but stable democracy, the United States is a puzzle for students of politics. Typically, the literature of democratic theory regards ethnic diversity as disruptive of a democratic polity. However, the United States has avoided so far the system-threatening consequences of heterogeneity experienced by other democratic states - it appears to be distinctive in the extent of its political integration. 'Politics in the Lifeboat' argues that the secret to America's success lies in the immigrant origins of its population. Voluntary migration, not forcible incorporation, has been the major source of America's ethnic diversity, and this, the author maintains, has had positive political consequences. Drawing on an investigation of immigrant political values and behavior in general, and on a qualitative study of Laotian refugees in particular, he contends that, far from being disruptive, immigrants have been an essential part of the relatively stable American democratic order. Assessing immigration's impact on the American political system from the perspective of democratic theory, 'Politics in the Lifeboat' opens a new dialogue on the challenges of democratization currently facing countries all over the world.