Note: This post is mostly better suited for novice to intermediate debaters.
Hitting a case on negative when you have nothing is probably the scariest thing that can happen in debate.
Probably the best way to approach this subject is to give you a series of questions to go through in your head which will help guide your thoughts. You may want to make this into a checklist to keep in your debate box.
First, think through the usual suspects.
- Is there a problem?
- Is it likely to be fixed soon?
- Would this plan fix it?
- Is it on topic?
- Are there things you can mitigate? (harms, solution, advantages, etc.)
- Is there an aff advocate?
- What side effects can be expected?
- What if it didn’t work?
- (Would it cause more problems as a result of failure)
- How will people react?
- Bad case philosophy?
- (Meaning, is the purpose of the case even a good one philosophically?)
- Does this case really matter?
Second, ask detailed questions about their case.
Test the case against extreme circumstances, and see how it holds up.
If you’re familiar with the Supreme Court code of ethics case, here are a few questions I asked myself when researching it.
What happens when a judge is recused? What if several are recused? Are they replaced? How are they replaced? What happens if they tie? Have they ever tied? How can corruption take advantage of this plan? Will judges have to recuse frequently? Might they be forced into recusing? By congress? By the public? What will this do for public perception? What if they don’t do anything? What if it doesn’t work?
Take the best of these questions and ask them in CX until you get a good answer.
Third, create vagueness arguments
If there is any detail left out in the case, possibly unveiled by the second step, make those into vagueness arguments and talk about why we need to know more about the case before it can be passed.
Fourth, pick apart their evidence.
- Source (Author)
- In the case of passing a bill in congress, is the author someone who wrote the bill in question? Does the person have good credentials? Etc.
- Date of evidence
- Did something happen after the evidence that makes it irrelevant? Etc.
- Lack of context
- One or two sentences is suspiciously short. Could be fine, but look into it. Why didn’t they include the entire paragraph?
- Title contradicts quote
- Article title is “x idea would be bad” and the paragraph seems to support the idea… What’s going on here?
- No advocate
- This can be important for many types of plans.
- Partial advocacy
- Example: Evidence recommends their plan + some other important part that they don’t include, and without it their plan wouldn’t work.
- Bad underlining in evidence
- Always read the full piece of evidence. Even good teams might make a mistake.
- Not enough to prove x point
- They often read poor evidence to back up one point, but really strong evidence for a less important point. It makes it seem as if they covered their bases when they really didn’t.
- Are the statistics relevant?
- For example: one article said that because small business pay $105.4 billion dollars in lawsuits each year collectively, they are getting bombarded with frivolous lawsuits. In reality, that statistic has nothing to do with frivolous lawsuits and proves nothing.
Fifth, compare the case to a simple, real life scenario
Sometimes it’s easier to come up with arguments when you dumb the case down to an analogy. For example, if the case is Supreme Court recusal, then you could compare it to trying to pass company by-laws that require the CEO to do something they don’t want/need to do. The CEO can just decide not to do that, because they’re the boss.
And just like that, the example is simpler and easier to grasp. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, just enough to make the point.
You can do it. There’s always an argument you can make!
For more posts like this, subscribe to my email list below.