Thursday, December 15, 2011

Transitioning to Policy - The Negative Constructives

The Negative Strategy
The goal of the Neg case is to prove the plan will not work or make things worse than they are in the status quo.  The Neg strategy determines the approach to be used in meeting that goal. Setting up a Neg strategy depends on many factors, most notably, the overall philosophy of the team as led by the coach, the dynamics of the 1AC and the skill of the debate team.  Some teams for example, operating under the philosophy of their coaches, may limit the kinds of arguments that can be run depending on the experience of the debaters.  Some coaches may not allow novices to run kritiks or counter-plans.  Be sure you understand the expectations of the coach before determining your Neg strategy.  When devising the Neg strategy you will be determining what arguments, both off-case and on-case you are going to make and you will formulate some hierarchy of importance to the arguments, realizing at some point it may be to your advantage to kick-out or drop the argument.  In fact, you may decide to run a series of arguments specifically aimed at creating more work for the Affirmative with the intention of kicking out later.  Be careful though, as some judges do not like it when a team carries arguments forward with the intention to kick out.  Judges see it as a waste of their time to flow the arguments for nothing. Nevertheless, it is a valid strategy.

When deciding what arguments to run, care must be given to avoid repetition and contradictions.  In the beginning of your transition to policy debate before you have much experience with Negative cases, it could be a good idea to review the kinds of Affs that may be run and design a generic strategy to deal with each.  For example, certain types of disadvantages can be linked to a broad spectrum of affirmative cases.  Using a disad which is easily linked to many affirmatives means there will be fewer disads you need to become familiar with and still be effective.  Typically each "camp" disad file will contain a series of link cards which apply to various kinds of Affirmatives. In addition there are usually a few "generic" link cards which can be applied to unfamiliar affirmatives.  Counterplans are the same.  If CPs will be a part of your overall Neg strategy then identify the kinds of cases you can link the various counterplans to and thus maintain a few CPs that you know really well rather than many with which you are marginally familiar.

As the season progresses and you see the same teams week after week, you can begin to create specific strategies for dealing with those team's cases.  Teams generally make incremental changes to their cases throughout the debate season, electing to radically change at some strategic point in the season usually prior to the major qualifying tournaments. Your experience in dealing with these cases will give you clues about how to attack or discredit the key elements of their Affirmatives.

When deciding on a Neg strategy you should remember that even though you may be able to bury the Affirmative in arguments as part of the Neg block, you still must narrow your side to accommodate the 2NR.  The 2NR will be your last time to speak so you will want to focus on the most important issues leaving time to wrap it up with voting issues.  This means, of course, that it will be unlikely you can carry all of the arguments of the Neg block to the end of the round and so you must give consideration to this fact from the very beginning and have a pretty good idea which arguments you can kick if required.  You must also give some consideration to the fact that some judges will be lenient to the 1AR and allow some new arguments which may also impact your 2NR and overall Neg strategy.

The 1NC
This is the speech where the Neg strategy begins to unfurl.  The 1NC is an eight minute speech in which you will choose to run a series of Off-case and On-case arguments.  Your approach to the on-case arguments can have a significant effect on your off-case strategy.  For example, if you plan to run a counterplan and claim the counterplan achieves the same solvency or advantages as the plan, you can contradict yourself if your on-case attacks claim there are alternate causes for harms or advantages. Additionally you can make your CP advocacy very difficult if your on-case attacks can be applied by the affirmative to your counterplan.  You need to be very sure your on-case arguments do not contradict your off-case, especially in all of the areas where your off-case will intersect the affirmative ground.

There is no point in reviewing the various kinds of off-case arguments as you can learn about them from many sources, including your coach, and online sources. The transitioning debater will be familiar with the concepts of the 1NC but will have little or no experience managing counter-plans; and limited to no experience managing kritiks and theory arguments including topicality, especially if transitioning from PF.  Most transitioning debaters will have experience dealing with impacts and impact analysis.  Therefore, running disadvantages are a good way to familiarize yourself quickly with Neg arguments and introduce the more advanced kinds of arguments when you have success with disads. In many respects, disads are a very good foundation for CPs and kritiks since CPs often realize their net benefits through disads and there are similarities between K's and disads.

The 1NC will need to deal with an Affirmative cross-x, so like any cross-x, the 1NC speaker needs to be very familiar with the Neg arguments, especially understanding how they link to the affirmative case.  Be prepared to deal with standard impact questions about time-frame, magnitude and so on.  Negative must give the impression the disadvantages are certain and imminent when the plan is enacted.

The Neg Block 2NC and 1NR
Preparation for the Neg block begins before the round begins and is refined when the 1AC is read.  The Neg team will want to split the block. For many teams, this means one speaker will handle the off-case and the other will handle the on-case.  Care must be given to limit the number of arguments to be covered by the 1NR, not only because it is a five minute speech but also because that speaker will need to deal with any issues which arise during the cross-x of the 2NC by affirmative and may need to pickup or clarify anything the 2NC fails to cover.  Prior to the 2NC the Neg team should have a good idea which of their off-case arguments should flow to the end of the debate.

The 2NC
Assuming the 2NC will cover the core of the Neg off-case, the 2NC should probably begin with an overview that refocuses the debate on the Neg arguments and clarifies the uniqueness, links and impacts.  This overview should be very concise, clear and comprehensive.  This is usually followed by once again moving across the flow, argument-by-argument, rebuilding and extending your evidence, warrants and impacts. This speech must drive home the impact analysis and once again refocus the the debate on the immediacy and certainty of the impacts when the plan is enacted.  Much of 2NC speech can be prepared before the tournament based on your experience and anticipation of what kinds of answers, affirmative will bring against your Neg case.

Discussion of the 1NR will continue in the next part of this essay.

The Negative Transition
Debaters moving from Lincoln-Douglas or Public Forum will likely have more difficulty adapting to the Neg side of the debate. This is mainly due to the fact that many of the common Neg arguments in Policy debate do not have direct equivalents in the other categories.  I believe, however, that arguing disadvantages can be learned quickly and these will lead nicely into the more advanced kinds of Negative arguments.  Regardless of which category you are migrating from, your experience in dealing with clash will be invaluable.  Analysis is still an important part of any debate and when all else fails, a sound analytical argument can still win the day.

* Click here for the affirmative constructives *

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