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I am looking a single-word alternative to use in the following example sentence:

There is ______ [a healthy dissent] in America about our current course of action, a dissent that is not only intrinsic to our values and our freedoms, but intrinsic to the checks and balances that keep us from drifting to extremes.

Note that the meaning of dissent (as per Dictionary.com) is the following:

verb (used without object)

  1. to differ in sentiment or opinion, especially from the majority; withhold assent; disagree (often followed by from):

    Two of the justices dissented from the majority decision.

  2. to disagree with the methods, goals, etc., of a political party or government; take an opposing view.

  3. to disagree with or reject the doctrines or authority of an established church.

noun

  1. difference of sentiment or opinion.
  2. dissenting opinion.
  3. disagreement with the philosophy, methods, goals, etc., of a political party or government.
  4. separation from an established church, especially the Church of England; nonconformity.
  • 1
    Healthy dissent might be characterized as constructive disagreement. – Drew Jan 3 '17 at 17:28
  • May I suggest "dissonance" as an alternative? – Nat Jan 4 '17 at 3:16
  • It's your question, but I would not wed myself to dissent. Other possibilities: "There is a diversity (or plurality) of views in America about our current course of action, a diversity (or plurality) that is not only intrinsic to our values and our freedoms, but ..." – Richard Kayser Jan 4 '17 at 4:08
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I would use debate:

Definition:

A discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints

Example:

A debate in the Senate on farm price supports

Or, discourse:

Definition:

A formal discussion of a subject in speech or writing, as a dissertation, treatise, sermon, etc.

Example:

The left needs to do two things if it wants to have an impact: give itself time, and change the discourse.

  • 2
    Dissent primarily hints at disagreement. Debate and discourse indicate arguments both in favor of, as well as, of opposing nature. So, in my humble opinion, they may not be a perfect fit here – Monzoor Jan 3 '17 at 14:03
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    What @Monzoor said. Dissent is an expression of one side of a disgreement - a dissenting opinion (expresses disagreement). Debate and discourse involve at least two sides - neither can stand in for dissent, let alone healthy dissent. – Drew Jan 3 '17 at 17:27
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contrariety

Definition:

the quality or state of being contrary

A couple of two word possibilities to consider could be contrary opinion or contrarian opinion.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/contrarian

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How about protest? It may not be perfect, but at least it's in the direction of dissent.

OD:

protest:

A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something

Synonyms: objection, exception, complaint, disapproval, disagreement, opposition, challenge, dissent, demurral, remonstration, expostulation, fuss, outcry

An organized public demonstration expressing strong objection to an official policy or course of action

Synonyms:demonstration, march, protest march, peace camp, rally, sit-in, human chain, occupation, sleep-in, dirty protest, write-in, non-cooperation

Many but not all people would consider protests in general to be a form of "healthy" dissent.

Your example:

There is protest in America about our current course of action, a dissent that is not only intrinsic to our values and our freedoms, but intrinsic to the checks and balances that keep us from drifting to extremes.

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contention TFD

The act or an instance of striving in controversy or debate

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