You read 3500 words of my earnest feelings and thoughts. We will return to those another day. You have earned some aggro takes I have been keeping in my pocket since the Clatterson.
1. The tags be no good
I think people have an appreciation of the first level ups that occur. Can you answer a card from the other side using a card you read previously? Maybe, can you give a 2AC or 1AR without dropping a piece of paper?
Next level debating is murkier. Can you be competitive in clash debates? For me, a serious next level skill is being able to manage complexity. Deterrence and assurance debates get very complex very quick. What we in the biz call “vertical debates.”
I can’t tell you everything that goes into winning a deterrence debate, I don’t work for you, I just dance like a good blog writing monkey for you. What I will say is your tags are not helping. Your tags are too often repetitive of your original point (the plan is bad for deterrence). Or they remain in their bad/original form when someone originally cut it and is not in the context of everything else you are saying or what the aff is saying. You are hemorrhaging opportunities to manage complexity with the way your tags build on one another. It makes the link turn debates AWFUL. Fix it.
In the interest of full disclosure I had this written down---1. how fast can you go/how stupid can your tags be. No idea what the fast thing is about. Ah, the creative process.
2. CP Texts
A goal that you should always hold near and dear to your heart is this: your CP texts should not be an assault on the eyeballs. A related goal is that it should not take you more than two minutes to read a CP.
Which brings us to Michigan:
Can we fucking relax? Think this is the new record holder for longest CP text (which is a Razzie award, not an Emmy).
3. Can we not?
If you went for one of these arguments earnestly…why? Please do not:
Maybe! If you read the Esper DA with a cardless Con con CP that would be good under some two negatives make a positive principle. However, assuming what I just said was stupid and the argument is as bad as it ever is, just do other shit.
Truf demanded this paragraph be inserted of his views on the subject or else this post couldn't go to print. Here it is:
A few things happened that were so egregious I could not help saying something. First, the rescission CP. Copy pasting slop I wrote at a tournament overnight for immigration card for card and putting it into a college Dropbox is bad enough. It making a 2NR and losing because Westminster didn’t happen to read their “AT: Certainty” block is a bridge too far. Glad no one voted for it. Second, the “invoke article 5 against X random thing” CP. This is just stupid CPs redux. Without an Article 5 key warrant or a card even implying the CP is good, they all lose to “perm – do the plan and proclaim that x is an armed attack on the US,” “perm – do the plan and treat x as if it were an armed attack on the US,” or “perm – do the plan and whatever policy changes the solvency card is actually talking about” (the one exception is the COVID CP someone read, which does actually have a card attached). Particularly this abomination: “The United States federal government should declare barriers to nuclear energy militarily attack NATO countries; and faithfully adhere to its defense pacts,” which, on top of everything else, is missing at least one conjunction. And yet, in multiple debates involving these arguments, the AFF seems content to accept the opportunity cost. They have generally not been punished for this because the net benefit is as bad as the competition argument, but seems like a missed opportunity. Thank you for tuning into this PSA.
4. No no word list
These words are banned, please stop saying them:
Lick their lips
That is all. Your judges will thank you
Your computer is muted, partner same room, you yell in the hopes the computer picks you up (mainly in CX). WRONG. This does not work and no one ever really hears the partner.
6. Write out your perms
Holy hell, just do it or make that worthless 1A do it. The real perm that you want to go for, write that shit out.
7. You are doing a lot of stuff that is ass
Here is the thing, judges are not going to tell you everything you did wrong during an RFD. A lot of them aren’t maximalists. Some don’t care. Some want to avoid information overload. Some just want to talk and talk and talk about their decision reasoning and every little issue live in the last two rebuttals even though no one cares. So debaters take that to mean that the unspoken parts of the debate went fine.
That is very wrong. When parts of a debate go by the wayside a judge is just SO THANKFUL they don’t have to decipher whatever both teams were mumbling about concerning one war or the other. They are relieved. The debating is still suboptimal.
Here are some things you should double check you can do
---debate the case on either side
---able to go for an add-on if aff (you may have to check your “file” if you have add-ons in the first place)
---Did you update your files to read all the best evidence available? I know the answer is no. No excuse really beyond pride. Bad debating regardless.
CP texts (see above)
Garbage arguments surviving into the block (see above).
8. Stop losing going for assurance
Should you ever go for assurance? It's a weird move because you could've probably read the same number of cards and just won deterrence while taking out the whole case while you were at it. But sometimes you want something external and assurance gives you that.
Some affs rely on using deterrence failure to turn assurance. The 2AR is designed to go like this "The alliance is going to break down no matter what; we are caught in a cycle of counteracting allies' fear of abandonment with strong signals of support which can risk entrapment. That will lead to a security crisis and a conflict down the line, better to just cut off contact now before the war."
This strategy is only good if you let it be. Commitment traps escalating to all out war is a (questionable) feature of the alliance system - it's not very likely that the trap is going to get sprung in the short term. If it was, the likelihood the aff can solve it quickly is pretty unclear since scaling back decade long commitments in a way an adversary would find credible is no Swiss picnic. Empirically speaking, the entrapment/abandonment cycle has been pretty stable over time (which you should have some cards about on the case regardless of the 2NR choice).
On the flip side, allies who have security needs are far more likely to perceive abandonment. Whereas adversaries are not going to assume the best (they will not immediately believe the alliance is over and that they can operate freely) allies are going to assume the worst (they need to fend for themselves). They'll do this for the same reason: heads of state hedge their bets in security policy, just as adversaries will assume the security crisis isn't over out of self interest, allies will assume they need to do their best for self help.
At the end of the day, this means competitors we have allied against are unlikely to feel very assuaged by the plan, but countries we abandon are very likely to feel pressure to protect themselves in the short run. The upshot is the link for the assurance DA should happen before solvency for the commitment trap.
But who cares? Good question. You need cards that prolif will be both pursued and achieved quickly so you can say the timeframe differential for link/solvency has a real impact. In your wall of X country will prolif, you should always read a card that it can start quickly. Alternatively, you can have a seperate impact stem short of prolif that can happen fast in the event allies are fearful.
In addition to that, it's always worth mentioning that if X country prolifs and it causes war, that conflict will be worse than the commitment trap war that the aff says is coming now. The simple reason is you add another nuclear power to the mix. This means (1) the chance of miscalculation and accidents in a crisis scenario is higher and (2) the size of the conflict is bound to be larger.
But also...why get into this debate? If you have all the parts listed above, you should be doing great. If you are not good on one of these parts…just go for deterrence! Link turn the case, avoid the extra curricular impact debating and get to the heart of the issue.
What the fuck do I know though, I just clank the keys for the masses.
As the world is imploding for the millionth time in the past seven days, I feel like there is a parallel occurrence in college debate. However, unlike in the real world, where a new thing happens every hour, a lot of what burdens college debate accumulates over years, as issues emerge for which we have never figured out solutions (although there are some newer issues, too).
My four years as a debater and my first three years coaching seemed to be the high watermark of being able to talk to each other. There was a shift from CEDA forums and edebate back-and-forths to Facebook. And with the coming of Facebook (to reveal my age, when I got on Facebook, it didn’t let you like or reply, and there were no groups – people were just talking into the void) came the dynamic that hardened so many of us. The million comments. The dumpster fires. The spectacle. The pile-ons.
Say what you will about those discussions (they didn’t really work, look at where we are), but they did happen. Lots of different people said lots of different stuff at that time. I really enjoyed it. I tried to stir things up from time to time. I loved being a reply guy. I felt like I had a blank check to blast people and tell them why they are stupid. Debate people always yelling at each other really aligned with my compulsive need to check social media.
A lot of people did not like this discourse. I have grown to not like it as well. We are in a state where the stakeholders that care the most about college debate cannot speak to one another effectively.
One thing that differentiates me from others is that I never deleted Facebook and I never stopped talking about debate on Facebook. I love college debate, while not always loving its players. I do respect anyone who seems to love college debate as much as I do. It’s this feeling that keeps me coming back and makes me want to work with other people to fix what burdens the activity, despite all the baggage.
Being honest, my two reactions to hosting a tournament this past weekend were: 1. I never want to host an NDT-CEDA event again, and 2. I do not want to talk to the people who do this event anymore. Now, that feeling only lasted a couple hours, and should probably be qualified by the fact that the Patterson was my fourth event in as many weekends, which left me a bit fatigued.
I want debate people to be able to talk to one another so we can solve the problems that are damaging the activity. I am not trying to center myself in any discourse, but this is my blog so narrating my thoughts is going to take center stage. I do not have secret wisdom that would instantly make debate awesome if everyone got on the same page about it. I just have thoughts, and a willingness to say them out loud on the internet.
If you do debate long enough, I feel like an impulse invariably emerges. The impulse is to anticipate someone’s reaction or response to something you are going to say. Whether you ever get good at predicting is an open question, but at least for me, this impulse is overwhelming.
I feel like this is a thing that really hurts debate people’s ability to talk to one another, particularly considering the Facebook wars of yester year. Everything feels played out. Everyone knows everyone’s arguments and they just do not care. Although I have bought into that logic in the past in a way that has hampered my willingness to engage with people, I just cannot do it anymore. I feel compelled to try to see if college debate can become a better version of itself.
What issues am I alluding to? Let’s talk about some, in no particular order.
1. Debate is not growing
Debate is contracting. Less schools do it. The schools that do it field less teams. There is a core group of schools that can field many teams based on secure revenue sources (although who knows how secure, ultimately, in 2020). It feels like debate is contracting to the point where the varsity division will just be roughly 15 schools sending 4 to 10 teams to a tournament. These schools already make up 75% of the elim bracket. This is a disaster.
This is a very big problem to solve. Effective communication and mechanisms would allow a lot of people to contribute a little bit of time to create an effort to reverse this tide. We do not have any of that.
Policy debate is too expensive, takes too much time and is too complicated. People who are full time debate coaches are not wizards at it, we cannot expect new students or former high school debaters with no full-time coaches to jump in under these circumstances. The people with full time coaches who get to think about debate all day think the sophistication of college debate is cool. I think it is cool too. I also think it is cannibalizing itself.
Online debate should be a golden opportunity to get two kids from any school to a debate tournament. That has not come close to happening this year. I am aware of no formal initiative.
We should not be surprised it hasn’t happened. To go to a debate tournament, you mainly have to say: “I will enjoy doing this compared to what else I could do.” What do people enjoy doing at debate tournaments? They enjoy winning. Even if they aren’t winning every debate, people can enjoy debate tournaments if they feel like they had competitive debates. This is the real barrier to entry. You have to know SO much shit and have SO much evidence to feel like you are having competitive debates.
We took the very small step of creating a set of novice videos. It has been a true highlight of my year when people tell me they find them useful. The scope of the medium for debate is endless. It will be interesting to see how many videos we have within a calendar year.
Debate needs to create a set of files that do not suck that are just given to people to even the playing field. I know projects like this propped up in the past and they were nice and charitable. But it should be a community effort and there should be more files and the files should be higher quality than they have been in the past.
There are probably a million more ideas amongst us, and we should do all of them, yesterday.
2. Information Sharing
Big umbrella topic. Let’s start with debatedocs.
Is it fascism? No. It is not.
Debatedocs has two main constituencies. First, if you are a debater and don’t like having to put a million emails on a chain, the ideal version of debatedocs resolves that. Second, the main person it is good for is the coach. The coach is the one who can do the most with docs in the 2 hours of a debate. Getting a lot of docs with no effort contributes to this.
Does this heighten the sophistication/elitism problem described above? Sort of. Like most things with debate, the default settings favor big schools with more money. They bring a lot of people to tournaments, they get all the docs, they win more. However, debatedocs is also good for the small school coach, since anything that increases their bandwidth makes debate a little fairer.
The other topic is information-sharing generally. People should post full text open source of all the cards they read in a debate on the wiki in a timely fashion. I am not going to rehash disclosure good/bad. It is good. It is a crush on the merits and there is no answer to the notion that big schools reproducing the information privately is obviously bad.
One thing I will point out is that reducing the transaction costs and barriers to entry is key for the activity to grow. We cannot make it overwhelmingly difficult to figure out what information is required to be competitive if we want people to want to join and feel like it is possible to be competitive. Hence information sharing.
That last topic is related with a new subject so let’s roll that all into one.
3. Videos + Scouting
This is a blend of an old issue and a new issue. The old issue is people kicking other people out of rooms. The new issue is how easy it is to get someone on tape in online debate.
This has caused a regression in terms of how open tournaments are. We are basically back to the 1990’s.
The core concern needs to be addressed: teams feel uncomfortable participating and feel like only narrowing who can watch debates insulates them from risks. This issue is framed as one of trust. This is a textbook example of what I described at the beginning: it feels like so many words have been said, that everything is hashed out, and that some people just do not care. I do not think everything is hashed out. That is not where I am coming from. If I was insufficiently plugged in to early discourse, I apologize.
Debaters should feel comfortable participating. The chosen remedy has two issues. First, it runs counter to most universities’ open education policies and the American Forensic Associations rules which say anyone can watch anything.
Second, it is not good for the activity in the long run. It is not a dynamic that can attract and retain new people. It creates barriers to information which makes it harder for new people and small schools (the main people that would grow the activity) and creates a situation in which who you know gets you access to certain information that will help you win a tournament. This biases the activity toward the people who are paid to do this as a full-time job (including, obviously, myself).
So we need to figure out how to make debate open and teams feel comfortable at the same time. Online college debate should be a GOLDEN opportunity to advertise it. You can do so many cool things with video. Better video could greatly improve the quality of debating. These things aren’t more important than debaters feeling that they can safely and freely engage in arguments without being exposed to negative consequences for themselves or their programs. However, these considerations do reflect that striking a good balance is really important for the future of the activity, and we aren’t there yet.
4. UK Video Policy
Relatedly I wanted to share some thoughts about the Patterson and video. We wanted to say people should have to get consent to record and we said that. UK legal wanted us to record debates in case presenting video evidence would help resolve a dispute, so we did that as well.
Where we started to mess up was that we didn’t outline a formal process in which someone should engage when they want a video to be reviewed. We have our Title IX complaint process (which is all university-managed). An instance we were thinking of was if a judge wanted to litigate a clipping claim, we would give them the video to help resolve the dispute.
However, unlike at our high school tournaments, we didn’t have an ombuds or similar process. I don’t believe the tabroom has really ever had to litigate a dispute at the college tournament like we do at the high school ones, so it didn’t seem like that big of a deal pre-tournament (although maybe I am forgetting?).
A team requested a video after round 4. I made a mistake by too hastily giving them that video. It was to help them litigate what their debaters did or did not say in a debate. This genre of incident appeared to be what our video policy was designed to do. I did not consult the other team in question or make anyone engage in any formal process (we didn’t really have one outlined pre-tournament). I let my impulse of resolving problems as quickly as possible compromise looking at the situation from multiple angles. I am sorry I did not handle this situation better. Lesson learned. Will not happen again. Better process for next time.
We didn’t record videos for your re-do’s. Priten and I don’t have the time to give you a bunch of videos at this point. Sorry.
5. Sexual Assault and Debate
Here is how the discourse on this issue works from my vantage point:
1. Person subtweets something
2. Other people figure out who they are talking about
3. Nothing happens
4. Subtweeter #1 gets subtweeted because they have an association with someone who is bad.
This doesn’t seem to be getting the job done.
I have not done all I can on this front by any means. I am hoping to turn that around. Is this issue a 100% hashed out and I just ignored the panacea? I don’t know, I don’t think so. That is how debate issues feel these days though. All I can report is my recent conversations.
Does pref shunning solve? I like it, but does it let people who do bad stuff get out of judging and put that burden on someone else? It definitely doesn’t get them out of debate if that is the goal.
People like institutional mechanisms and due process. CEDA has a process? I am not sure how it works or if it has successfully worked in the past (success being that person doesn’t participate in debate anymore). Critical debate has made me internalize a skepticism of legalism, but as described above with our video policy, formal rules can be the least bad alternative.
Is the punishment paradigm the way to go about doing this? I saw someone ask that question and it dovetailed with some reading I had done on the high school CJR topic. I don’t have anything thorough or insightful to say on that front, but something I plan to look into more.
If you have things for me to do on this front, short term or long term, I am all ears. Not going to put it on other people to tell me what to do and educate me, I will do that on my own too. I just want to make real progress on this issue.
I do not know what the answer is. I am huge on 3 days is better than 4. People disagree with me. That’s fine.
I do not know what the solution to east vs west is. I don’t think what we asked the west to do was actively worse for them than if the tournament had happened in person (they would still have to wake up at the same times), but online debate could be a time where it could be better. Can you do that for the west coast while doing 11 debates in 3 days? Probably not. Is it the case that the nicer you are to the west the later you make the east stay up? Pretty much. Is that the end of world? Not really.
I know a CEDA working group existed on this and they published a doc. I don’t think that is representative of where everyone is at. 3 days was a d-rule for us.
My bigger issue is the form, rather than the content, of how people engaged this issue. Snarking on Facebook really dragged me down. People snarking that never spoke to me about the issue directly really sucked.
An aside: basic Twitter etiquette is if someone is shit talking person A, you do not go and reply to the shit talker and tag person A so they now have to see it. You do not thrust that onto them and possibly ruin their day.
Debate people LOVE doing that to me. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to back channel about it. I don’t want to feel obligated to absorb every debate thing said on social media or else I am a bad host or doing something poorly.
I want to talk, preferably in a setting where I don’t have to type and where it can be done directly.
7. The ADA
Do the rules ruin debate? No. Is it weird there are rules written down that aren’t enforced? Yes, that should change.
Is the ADA a hegemonic organization? Not really. The most hegemonic part of debate is the interest convergence between big schools with money. Schools that do regional debate and recruit novices and don’t recruit national circuit high school kids are not on the front lines of what is hegemonic in debate.
Why do people ADA sanction their tournaments? They give a trophy out at the end as a regular season award. They have a points sweepstakes. They have formal rules for things (we have gone over why that can be good at times) and I don’t think they are completely duplicative with CEDA sanctioning (for example, ADA defines some things that CEDA doesn’t, but I haven’t done a side by side in a minute). They also have a novice packet, which is a really good idea – see above.
The anti-K language in the rules should be changed since it isn’t enforced anyway. Only seems like it could ostracize. I will dedicate some time to that.
I have also heard murmurs attacking people who are very invested in the ADA. This is really backwards. They make shit happen. They make novice debate happen. They make tournaments happen. Tournaments would likely crash and burn without their intervention (if you think tournaments are self-executing you are delusional). Tournaments need people to manage them. If one person messes up a tournament by 20 minutes, that is 20 minutes being robbed from hundreds of other people. That adds up very quickly.
I am not seeing other people volunteer to manage the biggest tournaments college debate can muster. I am not telling you to kiss the ring if you have disagreements, but thinking some of the most selfless people in the activity are the problem given the scale of the issues with college debate is beyond my comprehension.
If you thought this password had to do with K vs Policy rather than a non-debate person saying we do real debate compared to what they witnessed in the presidential debate I have a suggestion. Unplug your electronic devices, get a dog, go on a walk. You will come back more relaxed and better suited to engage on pressing debate issues.
9. Future of Online Debate
I am not really sure where people are at on this issue. The only thing I wanted to point out is that the combination of COVID and online debate is much, much different than just online debate. Another reason people like debate tournaments (besides the winning) is a sense of community. Great argument for an in-person tournament. However, I do think online debate would be a lot different without COVID-based restrictions on teams gathering. Intra-team socializing seems like it could buoy a lot of spirit in place of inter-team socializing. Just something I thought worth saying. I am not sure the people merely waiting out online debate are going to be vindicated in the end, but it could certainly be better than what has been happening in fall of 2020 due to COVID.
10. Answers to answers
Given how I opened this discussion, it is ironic I am going to end on this note of predicting what people are going to say then answering it. I am only doing this in hopes that people say something else and we can have a conversation. If people prove me wrong, great, sorry I violated my own rule.
A. You wrote this for self-aggrandizement/clout
Wrong, faithful readers of the blog (all 7 of you) know that I have gone on the record about this before. My original purpose was clout and clicks and provoking people, but I quickly got over that. The reason I blog now is because if I don’t write down the thoughts they occupy space in my brain for too long and distract me. I post them because some people say they like reading. I also post them because you can choose not to click on the posts, no one is making you.
B. You are a powerful actor and don’t do anything about anything
First, I think that is wrong. I do work to address these issues. Second, I don’t know how powerful I am. I will agree with the notion Kentucky is a successful debate program (my job is to make it so). Does that give me the ability to fiat what others do? Not really. But that isn’t an excuse for not doing enough in the past, and I am saying I want to work harder.
C. You think you are saying this shit for the first time/you are ignoring all the solutions others have proposed/you are trying to get others to do the work for you.
If there is a 5-point plan I missed which, if adopted, would fix all of debate’s problems, please link me to it and forgive me missing it instead of saying this. If that plan doesn’t exist, you are approaching the conversation like a debate round and you should stop doing that.
I do agree people have a lot of useful ideas and they were marginalized/ignored. I am attempting to bridge the gap. Folks told me that would be a useful thing for me to do.
Thanks for reading.
It has been a long hiatus for discourse fueled by musings and takes, but we are back. Something actually useful might happen in this blog post. Preseason is a unique part of the season that most people do not do well. It’s very long, but prone to distractions. You really have to do some digging to have some arguments, even if predictable ones, that are good enough to cut through all the noise that makes up the tournament, and not just ones that only work if the other team drops them (though having some of those handy helps).
One way to improve your preseason game is to think about what went right and wrong, what you did see coming and what you didn’t, and why. There is no better place for such armchair analysis. Without further ado, THE TAKES!
1. NATO Expansion Affs
Fuck these. I don’t think notable debates were decided on topicality, but this affirmative’s days seem to be numbered. If you can violate my T sensibilities (when I have pretty much none) that is saying a lot.
2. So. Much. NATO.
I believe all of the policy teams in the octa’s read some version of NATO? I guess I get it. NATO does have the critical mass of cards for the Aff, but that is also true of the Neg. I feel like debate was maybe a little too scared of the Japan Prolif DA due to previous topics. The DA about the one country that has invaded a bunch of other countries in the last 15 years doing it again after the Aff seems pretty scary to me, but what do I know.
If you have already arrived at this shorthand internally and made the couple of try hards on your team mad by saying it out loud, good work. You did at least one thing right during the preseason.
4. Explaining war and IR stuff is a wasteland
Two ideas here. The first is this idea that the Aff read an advantage that says the risk of Russia war is high now and then the onus is on the Neg to completely disprove that idea. That seems…not correct. Wars don’t really just happen, particularly great power wars in the last like 60 years.
It seems like the burden of proof should be overwhelmingly on the Aff. Where are forces gathering? What troop movements are you citing? What diplomatic signals have been sent? Oh you have no idea what I am talking about? Yeah, that could be the issue.
What results is the second idea: we devolve into buzzwords. But miscalc. But fog of war. But miscalc again. But humans have been removed from the kill chain. But spirals.
The buzzwords are what is really plaguing things. This blog has already gone on the record about revisionism and its ilk. Now Russia is a declining power and that explains everything forever. Ugh.
This is a thing that invariably happens at the first tournament, people are debating the tags and the labels and doing too much conceptual grouping and not enough specific parsing, and maybe don’t have specific enough cards yet. But the ultimate outcome is muddled debating where buzzwords stand in for useful information the judge can use to decide a debate.
5. Deterrence on the Case
If the Aff shotgunned your war impact, do all that shit on the advantage. I don’t care if you technically have an external impact. Do it on the case page. Never split between war advantage and deterrence DA. You are only human.
At the most basic level you are setting yourself to be inefficient, delaying say something on one page or repeating yourself too much.
At a deeper level by making two pages interdependent in this way, you are creating opportunities for important arguments to slip through the cracks, or for key judge instruction or explanation to get lost in translation. You are setting yourself up to fail.
6. NATO Hybrid Aff
Seems to be one where there is a distinction without a difference. Meaning, if you actually did all the stuff in the solvency cards, you would link to most of the core NATO withdrawal negative arguments. The way teams are avoiding this dilemma now is by making their plans say stuff like “don’t activate Article 5 for hybrid aggression” – and since none of these teams define hybrid aggression, they not solving the ambiguity that is the core problem described by this literature base. Classic dilemma.
Are uniqueness CP’s for deterrence and PICs if the Aff says enough in the plan the only ones worth having? To me, the first tournament indicates yes.
8. Dartmouth TV
First of all, great fucking initials. Second of all, they won 6 straight Aff elims. Very impressive.
They are idiots. No one takes them seriously. One would assume the people that post on War on the Rocks all the time would call them out every once in a while, but they never even find the time to bother (passing reference in Lanozska 20 aside).
This one has been under development in the lab for quite some time. NHP is No Hassle Presumption. It is the idea that the negative can win with a CP even if it doesn’t have a net benefit if it proves to be less hassle than the plan.
Here is an example from the high school topic:
The affirmative reforms the Capitol Police to improve transparency through FOIA. That decreases the risk of abuse ever so slightly.
The negative counters with abolishing the Capitol Police. It solves much better and it is much easier than the Aff. Much less hassle.
Here is an easy way to know you have an opening for an NHP CP. If you would describe the Aff as jumping through hoops…there is a way to do it with less hassle.
For instance on the college topic instead of burden sharing the US just pays them. That’s NHP.
I will say that there are MANY judges open to this line of argument, but I WILL NOT tell you who they are. You are just going to have to try it and find out.
11. Questions to consider
Just some things to think about if you want your next preseason to go better than this one.
By Anthony Trufanov
In every aspect of being a 2A, there are two structuring levels: the tactical level (what cards to read in what order, whether or not to make a theory argument, what advantage to extend in the 2AR – what you do with the tools you have brought to the debate) and the strategic level (which tools you choose to bring to the debate in the first place). Today I’ll talk about the first strategic question any 2A has to answer – which AFF to bring to a debate or tournament, and how to decide. This will be the first of several resources in the pipeline that will blend general advice with a practical illustration by offering a glimpse into the black box of AFF-writing, unpacking the process I will use to produce my GDDI starter pack AFF for the criminal justice topic in written and video form.
Part 1 – Being a 2A: A Theorization
Throughout your debate career you have probably heard many different “rules” and “principles” for what a good AFF should do. You may have been told that it is “better” to write an AFF that is “true.” You may have heard that your 1AC should place more emphasis on robust internal links than on well-developed, plausible terminal impacts. You might believe that only “high quality” evidence belongs in the 2AC. You may write off “squirrely” AFFs because you believe that it is better to leverage evidence from the core of the topic against negative positions. You might assume that solvency cards from books are inherently better than those from random articles on the internet. You might hold as axiomatic that your AFF needs to have an “angle” in a clash of civilizations debate.
There is a time and a place for all of these principles and pieces of advice, but none of it amounts to an overarching philosophy that you should carry into your AFF-writing if you are trying to maximize your AFF win-rate.
Instead, you should follow a much simpler principle: To maximize your win-rate, every decision you make must improve your odds of winning by more than the alternatives.
You probably think this statement is self-evident while simultaneously not realizing or adhering to its fullest implications. Keeping this statement in the back of your mind will help you remember that any other “rule,” “best practice,” or otherwise that you may have been taught to follow is not an end in itself – instead, it is an approximation for the pattern of behavior that is likely to produce the most wins the majority of the time.
This principle should not be treated as a blank check to substitute your judgement for the judgement of those more experienced than you. Brutal, honest self-reflexiveness is a vital element of implementing this advice. Part of that means acknowledging if, all else being equal, a decision recommended by your coach is going to be better than a decision you make yourself 95% of the time. Part of that means recognizing what you don’t know. Part of that means reckoning honestly with your limitations as a debater and preparing in ways that help you overcome those limitations in the long-run while minimizing their effect in the short-run. Part of that means that when your first draft of a 1AC serves up a pile of slop and a mentor or judge tells you to burn it down and start over, you have the courage and humility to shed your pride, look at your work through their eyes, and make improvements.
But this idea should also be used to remind yourself not to die on ideological hills when doing so requires a trade-off with winning debates. No belief should be above scrutiny. If you have over-highlighted a 2AC card to the point of regularly undercovering vital offensive arguments because you are proud of how good it is, change the highlighting. If you have under-highlighted all of your cards so you can make 30 answers to a DA and keep losing because your cards don’t say anything, you should highlight them more.
It should also be used to remind you that few principles will apply to an equal extent in every round. If we assumed away limits to debate preparation and fact retention, the ideal 2A would never read the same 1AC twice – not simply because novelty is inherently good (it isn’t – like everything else, novelty has a time and a place), but because the best version of every 1AC is the one that takes advantage of a NEG team’s argumentative proclivities.
In short, never do something uncritically. Always ask: why am I doing this, and how does it help me win?
With that in mind, let’s get into the concrete aspects. I will not spell out the effects of every possible contingency because there are too many and doing so could fill a book. Instead, these examples should serve to illustrate the sort of questions you need to ask yourself, and how those questions might inform your AFF strategy.
Know Your Goals
One question that’s important to ask yourself explicitly concerns your goals for debate, and what you want to get out of it. Not everyone approaches debate from a win-maximizing perspective. If you are doing debate for friends or clout, that is perfectly fine. But if that is the case, pretending to yourself and others that you are primarily in it to win it can only hurt you by siphoning finite energy from the outcomes you care about into those that you don’t.
People who claim to literally ONLY care about maximizing wins are deceiving themselves – wins alone do not produce fulfillment and they do not justify the inordinate amount of time investment it takes to get them. Everyone has competing priorities and obligations – that is good and healthy.
What we are talking about is how to extract the best competitive outcomes from whatever intellectual and emotional bandwidth you are willing and able to invest, given the constraints you choose to set for yourself. Your precise preferred balance of debate work and other parts of your life can have a big effect on what advice you can implement and what advice you cannot.
This requires being realistic. If you are prepping to win the TOC, realistically you should show up to the tournament with 3-4 completed new AFFs tailored against specific opponents or categories of opponents. If you are prepping to clear, you need 1-2. Writing three or four AFFs will reduce your odds of clearing relative to writing one or two, because writing the third and fourth trades off with polishing the first and second. If your goals are in the 1-2 range, you will probably do worse if you lie to yourself and overshoot.
Obviously, people can over or underperform their goals no matter how self-aware they are. Tournaments are unpredictable; that’s part of what makes them fun. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t gains to be had from prepping in a way that takes advantage of the most likely outcomes.
Know Your Limits
Who you are as a debater, student, and young adult should shape your choice of AFF.
How much time are you willing to put in over the course of the season? Enough to have a new AFF for your prospective season-long nemesis every time you debate? A new advantage? Just enough to write a single 1AC that you will never update again? The responses your AFF will draw the first time your opponent sees it will likely differ radically from the responses it draws the second or third time. The first time it is read, an AFF written for the long-haul might be less likely to win than a “worse” AFF designed to take maximum advantage of surprise. An AFF written to win one debate that ends up lasting for four tournaments because you got lazy is likely to produce worse results than if you had been honest with yourself and written something with endurance.
Are you the kind of debater who is good at picking up a file for the first time and giving a great speech about it five minutes later, or are you the kind of debater who achieves greatness through dozens of rounds of practice? The first kind of debater will be able to take greater advantage of rotating through new arguments. The second kind of debater will be able to take greater advantage of commanding the details of an idea they explore over the course of the season.
Is a team that is way better than you reading the same AFF as you, and consistently choosing an impact that you aren’t? It could be that they are getting lucky or winning despite their choices. It could be that they know something you don’t.
Are you a sophomore who can’t research but wants to learn? Read an AFF that requires you to research.
Is early March before the TOC the first time you are writing a file by yourself? You should not expect to win TOC elims on the first argument you produce. Your time is better spent polishing what you know, scouting, pillaging the wiki, and highlighting.
Are you a slower or faster spreader than your competition? If you are slower, do speaking drills, and in the meantime, choose an AFF that forces your opponents into arguments that limit their ability to abuse their speed advantage, like topicality or theory-intensive counterplans. If you are faster, still do speaking drills, and choose an AFF that puts a sea of cards at your disposal.
What parts of the topic interest you? If you’re personally interested in something, you will be more invested in researching it and more passionate in talking about it, as well as generally knowing more about it than your opponents. If feeling engaged by your work has a big effect on your productivity, choose an AFF that gives you VTL when you read about it.
Know Your Opponents
If you have decided that you are willing and able to do AFF prep in a way that targets specific opponents, you have your work cut out for you. The same questions that you would use to diagnose and preempt your weaknesses can help you discover and exploit your opponents’.
The most common genre of weakness is argumentative dependence or predictability. Does your opponent always read a politics DA and not extend it? Choose an AFF that gives you the option to straight turn it.
Does your opponent always throw out similar analytical advantage CPs (throw money at x, ban y, nuke z)? Think of the most likely ones about your AFF and preempt them through highlighting, evidence selection, and block-writing.
Do your opponent’s 1NC vs new AFFs always include three process CPs that compete off of a similar premise? Script out a response and save yourself some 2AC time.
Are you favored to win against your opponent, and by how much? If you have a 5-0 season head-to-head record, reading an AFF that improves your chances only if the 1NC presents a very specific argument that the NEG has only said 70% of the time would be unwise. Choose a less risky strategy. If you have an 0-5 record, roll the dice.
Putting this idea into practice doesn’t require writing a different AFF for every team – for any reasonable pool, that is an unreasonable expectation. Instead, it requires targeting categories of teams – slow teams, T-dependent teams, politics-reliant teams, etc.
You can even do this if you read one AFF all season. Modularizing your 2AC and 1AR blocks allows you to tailor argument length and selection in a way that responds to the NEG’s preferences.
Know Your Prefs and Your Judges
A lot of ink has been spilled on judge adaptation in the context of individual debates. What is less discussed is judge adaptation that occurs before you see a pairing and go to a tournament.
In the same way that you can categorize opponents by their attributes, you can categorize judges. Suppose you are targeting a team. You can look at who has judged your debates against them, and their debates against teams like you. If you both travel to roughly the same national circuit tournaments it is likely to be a recurring cast of characters.
Suppose 40% of this group taught at the UM camp and the UM groupthink du jour says that the states CP is illegitimate. It may be worth prepping an AFF with a worse response to the States CP, or a version of your States CP 2AC with a heavier emphasis on theory, so that you can take advantage of the opportunity if it arises.
Suppose 60% are college judges who have no idea what the topic is. Avoid super technical AFFs. Also think about avoiding the core of the topic in general, since getting people who know nothing about a topic to vote on T is harder when they are not programmed by community norms.
These are just some examples. Your answers to different questions about yourself, your opponents, and your judges may lead you in contradictory directions. The point is that there is no ONE answer to these questions that applies to everyone, or even to every debate.
Know Your Argument
In every second of speech time, you have one mission: choosing words that maximize the positive impact on the judge’s decision-making. This begins in the 1AC.
One question to ask is about 1AC structure. Is there a greater premium on selling the narrative of your ADVs, or on maximizing card-reading time? Either way, there is no single best tag for a card – each tag is additive, building on those that came before, and laying groundwork for those that come after. In a narratively driven 1AC, your tags have to tell a story that evolves as the 1AC progresses. In a card-text-maximizing 1AC, you may wish to minimize repetition through devices such as lists or omission of warrants.
Your card selection should also be contextual. Too often, debaters lean heavily on a generic set of impact evidence. But – for example – there is no single best impact card to proliferation. There might be a card that is the best at explaining why nuclear proliferation would be very bad. But if your internal link to stopping prolif is sanctions, your bigger issue is the intuitive judge reaction that sanctions have a poor track record at preventing nuclearization. You would be better served by a prolif card that describes a harm proportional to your sanctions internal link, and explains why specific types or examples of prolif are suited to resolution by sanctions in a way that recent examples like North Korea are not.
If you are reading a pre-2020 impact to economic decline in your 1AC, you are doing it wrong. You need a piece of evidence that anticipates and preempts the coronavirus objection by saying a further decline would be worse. If you do not have that you are wasting your and everyone else’s time.
Are you planning to rely on the robustness of your impact evidence in a 2AR against a K? Highlight the parts of the evidence that speak to the methodology behind your impact card.
Part 2 – Choosing My GDDI Starter Pack AFF
At this point, I am going to get specific, and talk about how I went about choosing my starter pack AFF for the GDDI.
Obviously, a lot of the above does not play a role. I am not writing this AFF for myself, for a specific opponent, or for a specific judge. There are pedagogical imperatives at play. However, it is still worth talking through some of the relevant strategic decisions to be made.
The first step is to know something about the topic. Do some background reading. Do some broad searches. Refer to camp topic lectures, camp files, and camp T files, but don’t defer to them.
Generate a mental map of NEG responses to the topic. What do they have in common? What are the best arguments? The worst?
Write down your thinking at each stage. Track what you learn and what ideas occur to you. Your memory is not as good as you think it is.
From like two hours of googling the topic as well as general debate intuition, I have a rough idea about some T arguments that might be a thing:
- T “Enact” = Congress
- T Criminal Justice = Criminal Justice System
- T Criminal Justice Reform = Softening
- T Policing = Local
- T Policing = Cops Not Other Regs
- T Sentencing = Systematic
- Did not care enough about forensic science to google it in the first two hours
Some primary flavors of generics seem to have emerged as well:
- Flavors of States CP (don’t really know what these are yet other than just states do the AFF vs federal mandate AFFs) + Federalism DA
- Process CPs that compete off of “enact” – definitely agent CPs, I have a vague notion that this word will be a really good process word for the NEG generally so having a strong process defense will be important
- 2020 DA
- Abolition K / Movements DA
- Legalism K
- Something about agency overstretch… idk what but NEGs will find a way
- The classic NEG vs courts swamp but maybe better cause courts AFFs will be about rights
Assess the relative quality of these positions and how it will shape your preparation. This requires some research. Once the regular season starts you can get some idea of the answer based on what went down at camps. I am relying a lot on my knowledge about the world/experience in debate.
I am worried about kritiks of reformism and incrementalism. This slate of policy NEG options sucks – some creativity and actual NEGs will be necessary, and I am not optimistic that most people can/will make that happen. I think it might be bad enough that even teams that would never typically go the K route will be forced to do so by the nature of the topic. I want some ability to throw a wrinkle into the general reformism formula.
I am also worried about states and federalism. I remember learning on the surveillance topic that the vast majority of policing and sentencing occurs at the state level, so solving stuff comprehensively/at scale will require a lot of preemption. Seems to hard counter any AFF that preempts the states in order to make them do something. I know from AP gov that state police powers is a phrase that describes a lot of state powers and has spillovers to some important areas like public health, which is a big deal right now. An actual doctrinal spillover argument is always a recipe for great federalism impacts.
T “enact” seems good. That word has historically been used successfully to exclude non-Congress AFFs. Some Congress key arguments will be important.
T “sentencing” = systematic seems okay. One of my first thoughts when reading the resolution had been that decriminalizing anything would be T. I still kind of think the groupthink will arrive there, but I’m gonna table that idea pending a better reading of community norms.
T “policing” seems terrible. The T cards I have read make me think that limiting the scope of that will be difficult. There are very broad, strongly worded interpretation cards. The community might settle on wanting badly to find a limit, but this seems like the kind of thing where the AFF will be allowed to get away with a lot in practice.
A few others of these positions are not scary, but I can reliably anticipate them being in a lot of 1NCs. There will be a premium on writing an AFF that can exploit this, whether through a quick dismissal that generates a time asymmetry, or that can generate a unique genre of offense. Not really possible to operationalize at this preliminary stage but a thing to stay on the lookout for. I am primarily looking to do this to the politics DA and the 2020 DA.
Well, at least there’s an easy way to circumvent the states swamp: just write an AFF about federal agency criminal justice. I do some further googling and it quickly becomes obvious that saying policing is only local is totally untenable.
Also, there are a lot of super aggro cards saying policing and police are different? About how private police do policing? How policing includes just like caring about the general well-being of the public? This seems like it would require a pretty broad T interp… but also it is too galaxy brain for a starter pack. Putting a pin in this.
As a side-note, I’m about six hours of searches in at this point. Settling on an AFF idea typically takes me about half of the time that it takes to write the actual AFF, unless the AFF just falls in my lap.
In this case I get lucky, and the AFF kind of does fall in my lap. I’m an avid listener of the National Security Law Podcast, and a recent episode discussed what Trump has recently described as “Obamagate” – FBI surveillance of a Trump campaign worker, Carter Page, under the purview of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. One of the podcast’s hosts, Steve Vladeck, mentioned an ACLU proposal to reform criminal prosecutions reliant on FISA-derived evidence as a means of exerting what he called “hydraulic pressure” on the intelligence-gathering process to be more diligent about record-keeping. I read an AFF about intelligence politicization at my last NDT and know that there are strong Congress key arguments for resolving intelligence politicization, and that such AFFs are great at generating link offense against politics. Because this is a federal process AFF, there are good, built-in states CP answers. As for the K, there are tons of arguments for why surveillance reform is necessary to open space for critical alternatives, which can be offense when coupled with defenses of engaging the legal system.
I say that I got lucky that an AFF fell in my lap, but I get lucky pretty often. I read a lot. I have seen many AFFs deployed and thought about their strengths and weaknesses. Since 2014, I have written 47 AFFs encompassing 10 topics. Commonalities and lessons frequently inform my more recent work. My intuitive read on whether something “is a thing” has gotten reasonably good.
However, a few things worry me based on my experience with AFFs in this genre. First, while intelligence politicization is a great impact, credibly solving it is very difficult. You have to affect Trump’s behavior in a predictable way – a baseline improbable proposition considering he is a total freak. Second, this AFF is mostly not about criminal justice – it is about using criminal justice to affect the FBI. There had better be a beefy set of reasons not to just alter FBI process directly. Third is T. We are talking about prosecutors – is that policing? My hunch is yes because I don’t think policing means anything, but answering this question will be among the first things on my plate. With any luck I’ll be able to say it is sentencing too.
Tune in next time to see how I begin to address these problems.
I have an external hard drive that is mainly used for storing old debate videos. I had this debate in .VOB which I think is some sort of old digital DVD format. Converted to mp4 and merged the 4 files together. A great debate including four all time debaters. I think the 1AR is one of the best speeches I have ever heard.
I now work with the author of the 1AC (Casey). Most 2007 files don't really hold up since the internet and technology have gotten so much better, but this 1AC is really close to what we think is a modern iteration.
Hope you enjoy the blast from the past!
By Anthony Trufanov
Like all arguments, stupid counterplans wax and wane in their popularity over time as people crack the code on how to defeat them and then forget as these counterplans fall out of favor. High school debate is unfortunately on the part of the cycle where people have forgotten, and stupid counterplans have started gaining currency again. One such argument (which I will discuss below) made an appearance in the TOC finals. It seemed like a lot of minds were blown on the live stream chat, the tell-tale sign of a generation of trolls and imitators getting it through their heads that this is good negative strategy. Hopefully by refreshing people’s memory we can shorten this part of the cycle and stop people from thinking this style of argument is cool.
What do I mean by stupid CPs? I am talking about CPs that rely on NEG fiat in order to manufacture an opportunity cost where none would otherwise exist. I am not talking about most process CPs per se, although some process CPs do fall under this category. What I am talking about is mainly stuff like this:
The United States federal government should use nuclear weapons against the Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China if and only if [plan].
In the TOC finals, MBA had a pretty sloppy perm selection in the 2AC, but eventually landed on a correct perm in the 1AR and justified it by saying that functionally intrinsic but textually non-intrinsic perms are good. This is a reasonable approach, but missed an even simpler approach that was also on the table – arguing that the perm was not functionally intrinsic in the first place.
Why is it better to make a non-intrinsic perm instead of saying “intrinsic perms are OK” or “functionally intrinsic but textually non-intrinsic perms are good”? Two reasons:
1. Complexity. The NEG will always say that the AFF’s standard is arbitrary and snowballs into all intrinsicness, which is bad. It is very hard to justify the notion that the AFF should get to add literally anything to their perm. It is far simpler to avoid the debate about drawing arbitrary lines around intrinsicness, and simply say the perm is not intrinsic.
2. Textual competition is nonsense. The premise of textual competition is that the meaning of words is irrelevant, all that matters is the letters on the page. No real decision-maker thinks in these terms – it is just a contrivance that was made up in order to exclude counterplans that include every word in their plan text when theory was not getting the job done. It ignores syntax and context. It leads to letting in absurd results like word PIKs that replace words in the plan with synonyms, or excluding perms because the words the perm uses to describe combining the plan and CP are not drawn from the plan and CP texts. Introducing this standard is unnecessary, lends credence to a fundamentally poor method of evaluating competition, and is risky, as imprecisely worded permutation texts often fail to meet their own textual standards.
To fully unpack why a functionally non-intrinsic perm that solves the net benefit always exists when a CP is artificially competitive, we have to go back to basics.
How CPs work
The NEG wins if they prove the AFF is net bad. There is a link, which is something that the plan results in, and that link has an impact, which is a reason that result is bad, and that result outweighs the benefits of doing the plan.
The logic of a CP is only slightly different than the logic of a DA. Instead of the link being an outcome of the plan, the link can also be an argument that the plan forecloses a better approach – what we call an “opportunity cost.” This can include doing the opposite of the AFF to achieve some positive effect (e.g. increase arms sales with climate offsets to solve warming), solving the case some other way to avoid a disadvantage (e.g. suspend delivery + the industrial base DA), or utilizing the absence of the plan to compel some kind of outcome (e.g. the conditions CP). These examples share a key element: adding the plan is impossible or doing so has some negative outcome.
How intrinsic perms work
The phrase “intrinsic perms” derives from intrinsicness as a theory argument about DA links. Under this theory, if a reason the CP is net beneficial can be preserved without forgoing the plan, the net benefit to the CP is not intrinsic to the non-plan, and therefore not a reason the plan should not be done. Such “intrinsic perms” take an action not included in the plan or CP to avoid the opportunity cost.
Why aren’t perms against artificially competitive CPs intrinsic?
In artificially competitive CPs the negative effect of the plan is entirely a construct produced by the wording of the CP. Any reasonable person presented with the plan and CP would see a way to avoid the opportunity cost presented. However, the NEG obscures this through grammar that makes it look like no combination would avoid the net benefit.
This is entirely a rhetorical sleight of hand that coopts the language of intrinsicness in service of a totally different concept. There is not a NEG link argument that the perm is advancing an intrinsicness argument about – after all, the NEG has not said anything about the plan causes something bad! This is simple to illustrate:
Plan: The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
CP: The United States federal government should use nuclear weapons against the Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China if and only if the United States federal government reduces arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The NEG would then read evidence that Russia might be nuked now and the CP stops that but including the plan would nuke Russia which would be bad.
Take a step back. What is the opportunity foreclosed by including the plan? The opportunity to not use nuclear weapons while not doing the plan? Technically yes, but that’s irrelevant – the whole point is that the net benefit has nothing to do with not doing the plan, and is entirely about not using nuclear weapons, which is an action the CP does that can be permuted.
“But the perm adds a WORLD that didn’t exist before – one where the plan happens and nukes aren’t used,” the NEG might claim at this point.
That is drivel. To state the obvious, literally any perm that includes the plan and all or part of a CP creates a “world” that is not included by either the plan or CP alone. In an artificially competitive CP, like with any other non-competitive CP, actions prescribed by the CP can be combined with actions prescribed by the plan to create a new “world” that avoids the net benefit.
A slightly more precise wording of this objection might be “the perm introduces a decision calculus for nuking Russia that neither the plan nor CP presents.” But this is also wrong. “Not nuking Russia” is an action. The CP introduces “not nuking Russia” as an option that is available for the USFG to take. Nothing about the plan precludes taking the option to “not nuke Russia.” True, the perm does not include the CP’s decision calculus – that’s because it doesn’t include any decision calculus, only the end action of not nuking Russia.
A final objection might be that no part of the CP says “not to nuke Russia” – it only describes exclusive conditions under which TO nuke Russia. But that is obviously pedantic. The only reason the CP alone is better than the plan alone is that it prevents a nuclear attack which would happen now by acting to stop it. That is a function that can be permuted.
The above discussion also misses the forest for the trees somewhat. So what if it is debatable that “not nuking Russia” is an independent function? The normative case for such an understanding of CP functions is obvious and overwhelming. “Use nuclear weapons against the Russian Federation” is just a stand-in; the forced trade-off could be with literally anything. It is obviously illogical and pedagogically vapid to make the AFF debate literally any nonsensical opportunity cost the NEG might dream up. And it’s not like the NEG will present a counterinterpretation of what constitutes a function anyway.
That’s all well and good. How can a 2A operationalize any of this?
Crafting a 2AC permutation
Before I get into examples, I want to point out something that these examples will have in common: all of them will have a full permutation text. You should also do this. The NEG will have a block to “perm: do both” that will rely on spinning the words you said in a way that is favorable to their understanding of CP competition. Saying a full text blocks them from doing this and gets them off their blocks, both of which are good for you.
You will also notice that there are a lot of examples. You should not say this many. They are hard to flow and there are diminishing returns because many of them share theoretical justifications.
I will use the following CP from the TOC finals:
Plan: The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
CP: The United States federal government should anchor space elevator funding to (the monetary value of Foreign Military Sales over two years minus 76,587,800,000) * 2 million.
The way this CP works is that the current value of the formula is $2 trillion, but the plan would diminish the monetary value of FMS over two years such that FMS – 76,587,800,000 < 0, meaning that doing the plan text and CP text together would not allocate $2 trillion to a space elevator. Space elevators are good for reasons.
Crafting a legitimate perm requires you to think critically about the functions of the plan and CP. The NEG wants you to think of the CP as one action: fund a space elevator according to the CP’s formula. However, hidden within that are several other actions that can be permuted.
One way to break it down is to separate the calculation from the funding. Step one of the CP is to calculate the amount of money that should be allocated to the space elevator. Step two is to give the space elevator $2 trillion. If you do the plan and spend $2 trillion on a space elevator, you are permuting the part of the CP that gives money to the space elevator. The NEG will say this is intrinsic, because it uses a different formula. That is wrong – the perm doesn’t use any formula, it just allocates the same amount of money as the CP to a space elevator. This is undoubtedly a step of the CP – the answer to the question “does the CP allocate $2 trillion to space elevator investment” is undeniably yes. The NEG would then be forced to rely exclusively on textual competition standards to argue that synonyms aren’t synonyms, putting them in the same theoretical boat as a Word PIK team. This yields the permutation:
The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia and allocate $2 trillion to space elevator investment.
Another way to break it down is to separate the calculation into its component parts – literally the mathematical “functions” it performs. Step one of the CP is to find the monetary value of FMS over two years – let’s call that number α. Step two of the CP is to subtract 76,587,800,000. Steps 3 through 2,000,003 add the result of that calculation to itself. Step 2,000,004 allocates the resulting sum of money to space elevator investment. This yields any number of perms, for example:
The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia and anchor space elevator funding to α * 2 million.
The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia and anchor space elevator funding to α * 20. (only perform 20 of the CP’s 2 million addition functions – avoiding a potential budget DA)
Arguably another step involves retrieving the monetary value of Foreign Military Sales over two years and converting it into a number – that’s distinct from and precedes the specific mathematical operation performed by the CP, which is: (76,588,800,000 – 76,587,800,000)* 2 million. Permuting all parts of the CP except the part that looks up the total FMS for the past two years yields:
The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia and anchor space elevator funding to (76,588,800,000 – 76,587,800,000)* 2 million.
You can also think at a higher level of abstraction. The CP includes the step of funding the space elevator – specifying the level is a distinct action. This yields:
The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia and fund a space elevator.
You could go even further. Step one of the CP is to “anchor space elevator funding,” and the steps after that specify what the funding should be anchored to. “Anchoring” – connecting space elevator funding to a firm metric – is a premise the CP clearly includes.
Anchoring alone arguably solves the net benefit
Google.com dictionary no date
verb: anchor; 3rd person present: anchors; past tense: anchored; past participle: anchored; gerund or present participle: anchoring
1. moor (a ship) to the sea bottom with an anchor.
"the ship was anchored in the lee of the island"
secure firmly in position.
"the tail is used as a hook with which the fish anchors itself to coral"
provide with a firm basis or foundation.
"it is important that policy be anchored to some acceptable theoretical basis"
The United States federal government should reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia and anchor space elevator funding.
Hopefully the above will give you all the tools you need to see through the NEG’s smoke and mirrors when they present an artificially competitive CP, as well as put you in the correct mindset to devise bullet-proof permutations against a wide variety of other CP strategies.
By Eric Short
I’m leaving debate. There, I said it. While ripping off the band-aid makes the process easier, as an introduction, the sting lingers in its awkwardness. All the better, then, that this is goodbye. I know you don’t believe me; I’ve left before and since returned, the proverbial prodigal son of debate. I hope you can forgive me, as I have this habit of returning to the activity I started nearly 25 years ago. But I am leaving debate, and before I embark on the journey (again), I want to muse about my time in debate, and what better place than Debate Musings! However, instead of curating this site as a museum with ramblings about policy debate (Lincolns words, not mine), I want to take seriously the possibility of muse until you are so utterly unamused with my wordplay that you curse my name to all nine Muses. In that vein, this reflection won’t correspond to success or failure, friend or foe. These are not even my favorite moments from debate. Rather, they represent my (messy and out of order) attempt to make sense of my debating musings and why I am leaving.
Four years ago, when I began coaching at Niles West, Val McIntosh, Brad Meloche and I started the Olive Garden Trio. There is no story here, this is the amuse bouche, a little food served before the meal to stimulate the appetite. Bon Appetit!
The year prior, Maddie Langr and Erica Duff (Wake DL) were mooing at tournaments. Yes, moo, like the cow. I still have no idea how or why this originated, but the moos would echo down the halls of every tournament, and soon I mooed back. I have embraced that mood ever since, even though I’m still uncertain of it’s meaning.
After my senior year of high school (a lady never reveals her age), I thought I had left debate forever. I graduated and left for college to study engineering. My last high school debate was against a team from Montgomery Bell Academy at NFL Nationals (The TOC of South Dakota debate). We got absolutely wrecked in that debate, and MBA went on to lose to Glenbrook North in the finals. “At least we lost to a great team,” I thought at the time. A few months later I opened The Rostrum (required reading for debaters in South Dakota) to an article titled “The Scars of Winning,” written by one of the GBN debaters, Dan Shalmon. “At least we didn’t have to lose to him,” I thought after I googled his name + results. A legend.
Engineering lasted for about a semester. I was homesick, not for my family, but for debate, so I left South Dakota and transferred to the University of Northern Iowa, where the website said “we welcome novice debaters.” I (wrongly) assumed my lack of national circuit experience in high school qualified me to the novice division. Cate Palczewski, my college debate coach and muse in her own right, had other plans. UNI hosted the college season opener (yes, GSU has not always been the first travel weekend), and she told me to go watch Berkeley LS to see what good college debate looked like. It took me three rounds of watching to realize the S in Berkeley LS was Dan. I watched every debate of his at that tournament, trying to figure out how to get better. Observing was the only way I ever knew Dan, as he was in the “twice won the Copeland” bracket and I was in the “barely got four wins at a major” bracket.
During my sophomore year of college, I told Cate my goal was to win a speaker award at the NDT. I never qualified. Many, many years later I did get to judge a break round at the NDT on a panel with Dan, during which I mused why teams who wanted him to judge would also want me. A legend. We voted the same way.
Ten years ago, writing arguments for Wayzata High School, I stumbled across and then became obsessed with the theories of Luce Irigaray. 1000 pages of evidence later, I had a critique that links to almost every critique. Her theories of wonder (muse?) and difference influence my debate thinking still, even if my teams do not read her in debates. Her critical inhabitation of other theories to demonstrate their internal inconsistencies has been a motivating force in how I approach writing negs to k affs.
My Slack profile currently reads “K, gay, and lay whisperer” for whatever that is worth. But I have now spent way too many hours (weeks? months?) in the depths of databases like Project Muse. I need a break. I’m leaving debate because I don’t belong here. Don’t worry, I survived my imposter syndrome years ago, crying, alone in the rental car in a parking lot in Bloomington, IN after a very stressful Monday of judging at the National Debate Tournament. This is not “I don’t belong here” but instead “I don’t belong here,” I belong somewhere else. I don’t belong here, in that debate and I have taken everything we can from each other.
For 25 years, I have been a muse bemused. See, muse (I couldn’t help the alphabetics there) isn’t just about reminiscing, though the memories are great. To muse is to become confused yet eloquent and thoughtful; to feel like an imposter and nonetheless be an inspiration; to become absorbed in though, but to still find your way home. Leaving debate is a way to correct for those internal inconsistencies that musing surmises.
The last high school debate I coached was against a team from MBA (I guess debate is more cyclical than linear). I had judged this team earlier in the tournament and mused “that is what great debate looks like!” But, isn’t great debating itself a muse? Debate motivates us to be better. Debate forces us to dream and deliberate. Debate is the mood you make it. Moo!
All these years, I had the parable wrong. In debate, I’ve squandered my mental and physical health, and the return home is to friends, to family, and to a social life. My many returns to debate symbolized not my return home, but to the extravagance at the expense of all those other relations (in every Irigarayan sense of the word). That’s not to say it has to be that way, as the Olive Garden Trio continues to teach me (thanks Brad and Val!)
Dan was right in his article; I just didn’t know how to read it in high school. Debate hard and nurture harder. Or, as Cate used to tell us before every debate, “Have fun, be smart, listen to your partner, don’t fuck up, and if you do, fuck up less than the other team.” If you do that, debate will give you something to muse about.
An entire topic’s worth of takes in one post? Let’s get to it.
However, I always have to say (one would think people have gotten the drill by now) how these posts need to be read. I am not dunking on 16-year-olds. I am here to give props where I think people earn them and to tell people how to do debate better. It is ultimately just my opinion, though if you look at the scoreboard in high school and college since September 2018 you might see a common theme that warrants listening.
Bad Camp Affs Means Nothing
High school policy debate is very interesting given the existence of debate camp and its evolution with open evidence project. The spirit of open source is great. What people do with the information is not great.
What you see on the NDCA evidence project means very little. Where did these files come from? One to eight students spend like a week researching. Adults chip in sparingly. Oversight is aggressively ad hoc and filtering for quality is avoided in favor of publishing everything to preserve feelings. Argument selection and strategic choices are deemphasized in favor of brute force card-cutting. The end result is usually a poorly thought out pile of slop.
I think smarter teams know this. They probably do try to look at files, take out good cards and delete bad ones. However, what I think is happening is that people see a file of all slop and conclude that area is trash.
The other thing at work at camps is people are saving their best ideas and arguments for the regular season. This pretty much guarantees the camp version will never arrive at the best version of anything.
The livestream chat of the semifinals and finals of the TOC is instructive on this. MBA read an aff that conditioned sales to Mexico on human rights accountability. The chat couldn’t believe a conditions aff was being read (more on this later). The camp files on Mexico were all about guns going into Mexico. Camp did conclude (correctly) that this version of a Mexico aff sucks because there is no good way to control the flow of guns into Mexico.
That isn’t the aff we read. “Lots of guns in Mexico” doesn’t matter because the internal link is about justice systems being able to hold human rights violators accountable. These systems solve corruption better too, so it solves advantage 2. Turns out there was a Mexico aff after all.
We read drones in finals. The chat opened the 1AC and said “wow, this is like not that bad.” Of course it is not that bad! It is the finals of the TOC. We weren’t planning to win it with slop. Everyone thought China fill-in zapped the aff because that was true of the poorly thought-out camp version . However, we had several China models the plan cards, cards that say China’s drones suck/countries have buyer’s remorse, and impact scenarios not implicated by fill-in. Another instance of folks writing off an area for no real reason.
Aff Selection Was Terrible
I do not understand this. Usually high schoolers are very reliable at not defending the biggest Affs and avoiding links. The exact opposite seemed to happen on this topic. People read Saudi Arabia and Taiwan for so many debates. I like big Affs so that part was cool.
It doesn’t make it strategic though. The Aff should have simply dominated this topic. The fact that you could proliferate single country and/or conditions affs in combination with politics being terrible meant the Aff should have never lost an important debate.
What Aff teams decided to do instead was read arguments that linked to reasonable DA’s like assurance. Why so many Japan and Europe affs? Why Saudi Arabia and Taiwan for the entire year? Why India? That is not to say any of these areas were on-face terrible. You could craft strategic versions. The point is you didn’t have to bother, you could have read things that linked to absolutely nothing.
Process affs also missed the mark because they never had any reason why reducing the sale was key to any of the process-based offense.
The four kind of affs you should have been hunting for:
a. we should completely break up with a country that is not an ally
b. the US is forcing this sale on the country, the country doesn’t really want it, the sale does bad stuff/trades off with other things.
If you just rotated through the above you probably would never lose.
People Give You Big Affs But You Don’t Innovate? Shame!
The Neg really compounded the error. I hate it when people complain about Neg ground. One part of it is agenda DA nostalgia when those debates weren’t that hot. The other part, which reveals the bullshit of the opinion, is when given an aff you can really sink your teeth into and Neg the hell out of it, people didn’t fucking do it.
There were five pretty prominent areas: Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Japan, Europe (mainly BMD) and India. The Neg innovation across these areas was terrible.
First, you don’t have to always go for the assurance DA. You could cut other stuff. Shout out to Westminster. They had a clear pulse on this front. They broke many new Neg arguments across these areas.
Second, when you do read the assurance DA you can provide variety. Similar to how you read new impacts on the Aff hoping the Neg drops them, throwing Aff teams curveballs is a good way to win more. Wadsworth 19 and the re-reading of said card is not the gold fucking standard.
Why So Much Saudi Arabia?
I didn’t do debate camp this summer. I started a little slower and behind. I thought Saudi Arabia would be a good aff based on the college military presence. Then I read all the camp files. Then I did a little searching. Then I gave up on that assessment. I became a Taiwan guy. You saw how that worked out.
I just don’t get the appeal. Yemen war escalates? Sucks. Could you read a bunch of advantages? Not really. Did people figure out the relations DA? Didn’t seem like it.
I will concede Neg innovation on this front was basically non-existent. I know some people who claim to be deep in the Saudi lit disagree with me on this, but I just thought this area was Neg-leaning and Negs did the least innovating here.
Naming T After the Author. Again.
I swear on all that is holy if we do this shit again next year, I am going to lose it. Not only is calling T by an author name always stupid (which has been going on for four years now) this iteration was the worst. T-Pearson (a stupid name) was the worst staple T argument in the last 5 years.
This was in EVERY 1NC. Like I will give you a $100 if you show me a 1NC speech doc against a policy aff that did not have this card in it.
The odds of winning on this argument were ZERO. It was fucking terrible. There is no way on God’s green Earth this is the way the topic should work. You would have done more productive work filling the speech with variations of SPEC arguments.
Conditions: No One Knew Anything
The Aff could definitely condition sales. This was a butt crush T wise. There were many many viable countries. I think HR condition all arms sales and Egypt were the only two camp affs that conditioned sales. A crime to the notion of previewing the topic.
Condition affs would have been better debate. Positive vs negative. State department resources becomes a real factor. Relations DA’s. Spillover DA’s about countries thinking they are next. That would have been reasonable debate.
Condition CP’s need real net benefits with real impacts. You can’t just read we should leverage the Aff and call it a CP. You have to complete the strategy. Don’t think anyone ever did.
Taiwan Was Good. Not That Good.
BM lost one debate with the Taiwan aff to spark. That was it.
We highlighted three things differently compared to camp. First, Heer 19 and structural parity arguments. Nobody ever answered this part. It was supposed to be sneaky the first couple tournaments, not all year. Second, good relations solve war/encroachment. This is where not innovating on the Neg and only going for deterrence/assurance bit you. You forgot what you were taught on the China topic about such an argument. Third, Yoder 19, concessions now are good because we can still contain later. Revealing Chinese thinking though a concession is key. It obviously paired very well with structural parity. Nobody answered this part either.
Blamo! Doing a couple of targeted reforms can also cause you to have really high winning rates.
Stop Reading CP’s Without Cards
It isn’t smart. It makes you look dumb. Things that you can’t beat a good team on that make you look dumb when you do them should be avoided. I am not saying don’t read CP’s based in 1AC evidence. That can be smart. I am talking about the advantage CP you think “is smart.” I am talking about reading con con with no evidence. Stop it.
Wiki is Garbage. Please Fix.
I promise high school debate would be a lot better if everyone was open source. It doesn’t tradeoff with winning (MBA the last 4 years proves). It makes it so much better. If you only post cites, you suck, sorry. If you don’t post every round, also sucky. Get with the program.
Stop Reading Double-Digit Off
I am sure you could trace this trend to who did it first to make it cool. It is really, really stupid. First, you aren’t even really doing it because you are inflating the total with stupid procedurals and no card CP’s that don’t make any sense. It is not like you have 10+ things that are unique, actually link and provide a path to win all at the same time.
It also seems to just melt the brains of the Neg. I would hope in a world where a judge would instantly vote against you if you read more than 8 you would spend your time coming up with 8 that didn’t suck, and you would answer the case. That’s what we are looking for. 7 to 8 real arguments and answering the case. You can even do it against new affs if you prepare well. Give it a try.
2A’s—if you are a real debater you should practice against this double digit off scenario. The first time you might copy and paste 10 2AC blocks and try to read straight down. That time is going to suck. What you need to do:
a. figure out how you can answer multiple pages with the same argument
b. streamline redundancies, mainly on T and CP theory stuff
c. swap long cards for shorter cards
d. When you read a card in the 2AC that should mean you can read a lot more in the 1AR if the block collapses and win a debate on that argument. If you read a card and it doesn’t meet that standard, you are fucking up.
e. Make smart analytics that completely answer an argument.
f. straight turn the throw away stuff
g. make analytics you can read cards on later.
Practice that a few times and this lots of off strategy melts away. It also has the added benefit of if you write blocks like this and the Neg reads a reasonable number of off the 2AC can drop the hammer with double digit distinct answers. This is contrary to the current industry standard of six total answers, maybe four of which are different.
People seem to be writing 2ACs, but I am not sure they know exactly what that entails. Your goal should be to say the Neg is wrong. It shouldn’t be to “be skeptical” about the Neg. It shouldn’t be to nitpick the Neg. It shouldn’t be to read cards that tangentially relate to the Neg. You should read cards that address the thesis of the Neg argument and say it is incorrect. Offensive arguments would be cool too.
You research all the possible answers you could make to a thing. You then rank them in order of goodness. You then think about what the Neg is going to say in response. You then figure out what in total you need to win the argument evidence-wise. You then figure out how to distribute that evidence between the 1AC/2AC/1AR so as to not drop other important stuff while setting up the 1AR’s ability to choose and vertically develop 2AC arguments
You do this again and again for every Aff you write until the end of time. It is the 2A life. It is not for everyone. Don’t half-ass it though. That’s no fun for anyone.
New Age Debate Memes
If you ever interact with other speech and debate events, you figure out pretty quickly that they have their own lingo and they sound funny. I am sure if your parents hear you talk about policy debate, they think you sound like a freak. In my debating time the big risk was you would use too much debate jargon substituting for real arguments. A dead giveaway for someone like this is if they ever say the phrase internal link turn earnestly. Debate has rotted their brain.
I don’t think debate-specific jargon is the real issue recently. The issue is people have taken academic-sounding phrases and turned them into memes and buzzwords. Speeches are lacking in any real substance because it is full of words like miscalc, escalate, sacred commitments, revisionism, etc.
You aren’t actually saying anything. This gets really funny when the archetypical 2N stands up in CX and asks “what countries would go to war” and then crickets. Or the Aff says some countries and then 2N raises an eyebrow and asks “geez idk, wars cost a lot why would they do that?” Then crickets again.
I don’t fault anyone for debating like this. The subjects at hand are very complex and folks are just high schoolers after all. Also, good teams sound like this so I should sound like this, I get it. One of the best ways to win college debates fast as you transition is learning more about the world so you can call out bullshit. People in college basically self-filter out crap arguments because the other side reliably points out the weakness. This is not the case in high school. There is a big win percentage edge to be gained if you can do this.
A corollary to this is: rehearse explaining your shit. Practicing real CX’s against a coach should still be a thing. Knowing who would go to war and why is a real thing you need to explain. “Somebody miscalcs and it escalates cuz nationalism and sacred commitments” is drivel.
Dan has been mad about the following point in high school and college all year. Here is his take below:
Judging debates that revolved around this premise was unspeakably bad for my value to life. I’m not really sure how it started, but someone at camp told everyone that the surest way to win a debate was to spam as many cards as possible regarding whether or not China/Russia was “revisionist”.
It seemed like the following argument became a generic DA on the topic that everyone took seriously: Card 1 – china is revisionist and evil, Card 2 – nuke war. This was awful. Whoever told you this at camp should be held publicly responsible for the damage they’ve done to the community’s collective intelligence. It seemed like every debate I judged about Taiwan included 6 cards on each side about whether China was “revisionist”, and the team that won the debate was the team that read the most.
This is totally ridiculous – “revisionism” isn’t some permanent and fixed category that determines every action a state will take, it’s a strategy that certain actors within certain states sometimes utilize for specific goals. Whether or not powerful actors within China, for example, will take “revisionist” actions regarding the plan is entirely a question of link evidence and arguments. This was the real tragedy about these debates – both sides read usually 1 or less link cards, but read a million revisionism cards!
NONE OF IT MATTERS without detailed and specific link/internal link debating. And even then – states can want to “revise” the global order and still make security-based calculations in their regional spheres of influence that are entirely separated from their “revisionist” global ambitions – so winning that China is “revisionist” vs the Taiwan F-16s aff means basically nothing absent link evidence connecting F-16 sales to broader Chinese adventurism (and evidence saying such a thing is bad for strategic stability). If you were one of the people who told kids this was a thing at camp, you should feel bad for misleading everyone.
The TOC was High Caliber
People brought their A game. It seemed liked entourages were easier to access because people had time and it was cheap (no travel) so people could focus more on the args. Nobody who showed up slouched.
Special congrats to Kent Denver. Closing out a quarterfinal at the TOC is a monumental accomplishment for a program.
Thank you to all the folks who popped in to judge as hires. It might have been for the cash, but I think the more likely explanation is your love of the game. You helped create some of the most preferred panels in TOC history.
High School History
102-5. Won New Trier, St. Marks, Glenbrooks RR, Emory, CPS RR, Berkeley and the TOC. Finals of Ghill RR, Ghill and Glenbrooks. Won 49 straight debates since the finals of Glenbrooks. Didn’t lose in the second semester. I am open to suggestions of a team that had a more dominant single season in high school history compared to MBA BM.
Aden made it to the TOC 4 times. He was in the Quarters, Semifinals, Finals and Champion.
Aden as a freshman was 4-0 vs Peninsula TW and McDonough JN, the two TOC finalists that year.
During his sophomore (education), junior (immigration) and senior (arms sales) topic, Aden did the following:
Won: the Ghill RR (2x), New Trier, St. Marks (2x), Michigan (2x), Glenbrooks RR (3x), MBA, Pace RR, Emory (2x), Cal RR (2x), Pine Crest, Berkeley (2x), NDCA and the TOC.
Finals: Ghill RR, Ghill (2x), Glenbrooks, the TOC.
He set the record for Baker points his junior year and then broke it his senior year.
If anyone wants to offer up a more accomplished high school debater, I am listening. The fact that he continued to have the fire and remained inclusive of teammates and so humble is astonishing. I have flexed way more in this post than Aden has probably done in his entire life.
It has been incredible to be able to help him these last 4 years. I won’t forget it.
Feedback from yesterday’s post was interesting. It definitely taught me that we all don’t share identical social media feeds and screenshots would help a lot. Also have to keep the writing in these posts tight when trying make a narrow argument, lest the asides get taken as the main point. There isn’t much to debate about, people said reasonable things generally and the dispute would be about degree of link to what I actually said and intended to say. Ultimately, poor writing on my part if the way it hits people is very far from my intention. That's on me, not them.
Some folks said voting was a civic responsibility and seemed to imply that responsibility should extend to engaging nonvoters (maybe I am reading into this last part). I would have to hear more about that. Not well read enough for that mere statement to mean anything to me.
I am here to talk about what I found to be a novel defense of Vote Blue, No Matter Who that came as a reaction to yesterday’s post. I thought it worth passing along.
I stated yesterday that a vote mattering is the odds it proves pivotal in the election (causing a tie or breaking a tie). There is reasonable consensus that this number approaches zero. A more nuanced way to think about voting via political science is the following:
People choose to vote based on the probability their vote is pivotal, their direct utility from voting (civic duty, social network pressure) and the costs of voting (be they psychological or economic transaction costs). So, if someone is going to vote the direct utility of voting has to outweigh the costs because the probability of being pivotal is not adding anything.
Here are the two main studies that establish that social pressure works:
Taking those insights, the defense of Vote Blue, No Matter Who as a social media talking point:
1. Social pressure from peers about voting is a pivotal factor in getting people to vote. Also, one of the cheapest ways to impact things.
2. Voting becomes habitual, once people do it once they are more likely to do it in the future across many elections
3. Boosting turnout helps Democrats’ chance of victory.
4. The average Democratic candidate is better than the average GOP candidate for the purposes of mitigating harm regardless of the election in question.
5. Thus, pressuring people from nonvoters into habitual voters is likely to improve the chances Democrats win over time which is good because they do less harm than GOP candidates. The mantra “Shut up about voting” would forfeit the above.
This is certainly a more coherent case for voting backed up by social science than I was aware of yesterday. Here are some clarifications.
What is “social pressure”
Highlights from the articles:
“Exposing a person’s voting record to his or her neighbors turns out to be an order of magnitude more effective than conventional pieces of partisan or nonpartisan direct mail”
“Personal, unhurried appeals are usually far superior to impersonal, mechanical and rushed communications (Gerber and Green 2000).”
The field experiments communicated to voters one of four options:
A. Do your civic duty
B. You are being studied, but the results are going to be confidential/no one will know if you voted or not.
C. We’ll tell other people who live in your house whether you voted or not.
D. We will tell your neighbors if you voted or not.
B, C and D all increase the social pressure. D had the biggest impact on getting people to vote.
All to say, internet randoms talking at each other probably doesn’t do anything. The person has to be in your network/a social leader to make social pressure work. I would say the social media posts I see are a mixed bag. Some are earnest/targeted at a peer. A good chunk is just shouting into the void/sharing polarizing stories or drivel from blue checkmarks .
Biden is as bad or worse than Trump
These arguments likely fall flat in the final estimation. Don’t get me wrong, Biden sucks. It is just very difficult to suck more than Trump. A Biden administration would save more lives (while still doing bad things) than a Trump administration. I am open to arguments on these fronts, but it seems like a high bar to clear.
For instance, you could say I am not going to vote, the Democrats will eventually lose enough elections and they will change course much closer to my policy/candidate preferences. How likely is that to work out? Unclear. Are there spillover effects from propagating notions that disengage and disaffect people? There does seem to be backing for such a notion.
It branches into a murky conversation about structural change that is beyond my current scope.
Biden is a rapist and that’s a d-rule
I find this argument to be eminently reasonable. What percentage of No Biden voters holds this particular view is unclear. The above framework is mainly geared toward Bernie supporters who don’t want to vote for neoliberal shills.
I did ask for someone’s response to this position and a summary is:
a. You don’t vote for people as people.
b. You vote for the candidate who has the least distance between their position and your ideal policy standpoint.
c. You are making a strategic choice to reduce harm
That is not the most inspiring slogan for a candidate. Wouldn’t want to put it on a sticker. It does, however, bolster the idea that Biden is going to need some extra turnout juice from social pressure to mitigate adverse enthusiasm gap concerns.
I do not like either major national party. Neither of them endorses a politics with which I personally identify. We need new organizations.
However, for what it’s worth, when faced with a choice in November about which party will do less harm, I will formally submit my opinion on the matter, and it will be that Democrats do less harm (we have a Democratic governor in Kentucky who won by like 5,000 votes who is mitigating the hell out of harm right now despite not being a full blown comrade).
Will I vote for Biden despite the accusations of sexual assault? Probably not. I live in Kentucky so my vote on that matter does nothing. I want other people to vote for Biden (mainly in PA, WI and MI and a couple other states) for harm reduction (but maybe someone will flip me on that). I am going to need some more thoughtful takes on the matter because I am not there yet and Biden probably needs all the help he can get.
My social media feed has been a dumpster fire since Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign. There are two main camps. First, people saying they will never vote for Biden (myriad of reasons, but him being a rapist seems to top the list). Second, people saying you must vote for Biden because Trump is bad. I imagine this bottom-of-the-barrel discourse will continue off-and-on for the next seven months.
This conversation is stupid, but not for the reasons stated to date (from my vantage point, at least). Let’s investigate and see if we can shut people the hell up, or at least move the conversation onto things that matter.
Let’s start with the Biden over Trump people. A vote for not Biden is a vote for Trump. Everyone has to band together and vote for Biden. Something something Bernie bros. Something something suck it up. The ultimate implication being that every vote matters and every vote not for Biden is courting disaster.
The issue with this position is math. A very common definition of a vote ‘mattering’ is the odds it results in a tie or breaks a tie. Here are some bullet points on that notion:
The only way you can make the math work in favor of voting is if you shift to expected value/utility theory. If there is a trillion dollars of difference between Trump and Biden and you have a 1 in 10 million chance of swinging the entire election, the expected value of your vote is +$100,000.
Issues with that: One, impossible to really calculate. Two, promotes a sort of existential risk/precautionary principle/utility maximizing style of reasoning that you really wouldn’t care about in other areas of life. Three, a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 was won by proving that humans are very bad at the expected utility thing. The real kicker is that ultimately, when an outcome or event is the same regardless of your participation, your participation did not matter.
Does that mean voting does nothing? Certainly not. It does do something. What it does is say something about the person casting the vote. For the reluctant Biden voter, it expresses that they are fine voting for imperfection/lesser of two evils to promote a notion of the common good. Never Biden people jump in at this point and start explaining why Biden is bad (possibly as bad as Trump, maybe worse based on some takes I saw).
Here, again, we have the same issue. Granting the illusion that someone’s vote for Biden matters and saying Biden is bad is not doing anything, for the same reason trying to guilt Never Biden people into voting is stupid. In the realm of social media, you are not haggling over any political influence/power that can register on any scale. Everyone was always already merely expressing themselves with their voting preference, not allocating units of political power. The winner of the election gets all the political power if they get to 270 electoral votes and your vote doesn’t do anything about that.
So, when someone says “I am never in my life going to vote for a rapist,” the response should be “good for you, I hope that helps you/makes you happy.” Responding with “but what about judges/kids in cages/tax credits” is delusional. One vote has nothing to do with any of that.
As a complete aside, politicians should just earn the vote from voters. If they do a bad job, that’s on the politician, not the voter. Nobody owes their vote to anybody. One of the main selling points of Biden was his electability, so he should be able to persuade voters. No one has to do it on social media for him.
I need to clean up several things at this point, because if we have some Reluctant Biden people reading they are likely losing their shit.
Mobilizing people to vote could have an impact (the more votes you are responsible for, the better odds you have). Clogging social media doesn’t do any of that. Face-to-face contact or phone calls are necessary—that’s studies. Could one individual divorced from a broader organization/strategy ever mobilize enough voters to make it worth the effort? Probably not.
If everyone thought voting didn’t matter, then no one would vote. True! Except, every election ever proves that people do not think like that! They vote for reasons other than the “purely rational” ones recognized by social sciences. Some would call it irrational. A paradox, even. They vote to express themselves, or because they have made a calculation about what their immediate peer group/social circle will think about them.
Another issue with the “all voting will collapse” argument is that elections have not been going so hot. Voters are very low information. A lot of them are consistently racist/xenophobic. If I could trick 100 Trump voters into not voting by saying it is stupid, that’s pretty good bang for the buck. Oh no! All voting will collapse if you point out math! Whatever will society do without more 2016’s or centrists or neoliberal assholes??
Voting can be good. Especially if it were way easier to do. Like what if the US was like Estonia and you could vote online? Pretty cool. It can bring a noticeable amount of personal satisfaction. It can generate social capital for an individual that they can invest into other endeavors. It can signal a sense of belonging to a community, like when you clap at a performance or shout at a game.
The tradeoffs are real, though. In some states, you have to wait an hour or longer to vote on average. Ridiculous, almost impossible to justify for care-takers or working-class people. For God’s fucking sake people in Wisconsin were forced to risk their lives to vote. It says a lot about them as people, and I respect their character even though the math was not in their favor.
The real time sink is the pointless typing at your computer, the consumption of articles, and the emotional toll it takes when you read someone say something that pisses you off because you think it influences an election.
I am not saying people have no agency or political power. It is a question of scale. Go out and contribute to a political organization that can achieve enough scale to make a thing happen in the long-term while creating a network of care in the short-term. Never Biden vs Reluctant Biden contributes nothing to that other than getting everyone pissed off at each other and exhausting them to the point it doesn’t happen.
I am Lincoln, head coach at UK . This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.