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Dissenting by Deciding, 56 STAN. L. REV. 1745 (2005)


Everyone, it seems, believes in dissent. Our political mythology promotes a romantic vision: the solitary voice of reason, Holmes’s prescient dissents, the lone juror in Twelve Angry Men. When talking about the role dissenters play in democratic governance, scholars offer a more workmanlike view. The conventional understanding of dissent as a practice recognizes that dissent is more than culturally resonant; it is a political strategy. Like any minority faction, dissenters can often get the majority to soften its views or at least obtain a concession or two. Scholars thus grasp that dissenters can wield power through participation or presence rather than persuasion.

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