How do you beat a case that seems to be backed up completely by a value that the judge can’t disagree with? How do you defeat a case if it’s trying to reduce terrorism and you seem to be supporting terrorism with your position?
I’m going to give you a quick crash course in taking the moral high-ground, which is my way of saying getting on the right side of the judge’s bias.
Step 1. Acknowledgement of moral high-ground
I always advocate taking issues face on rather than sliding around it like a snake.
This step is extremely simple, just admit that your opponent’s underlying value is or seems good.
Is good vs. seems good
If you plan to take the high-ground by adopting their value as your own, then admit to the judge that their value is good.
If you plan to show that their value is actually bad and you have a better one, then go for “seems good”.
“The idea that the affirmative team has proposed is obviously noble. No one can dispute that fighting terrorism is a good idea.”
“The idea that the affirmative team proposed has a guise of nobility. They want to help poorer people get involved in our political process. Seems nice, right? Unfortunately, as we’ll see, this ‘egalitarianism’ that the affirmative team is pushing for causes many problems.”
Step 2. Explain your vulnerable position
This is where you tell your judge that you are in a difficult position, because you’re debating against what seems like a very noble case.
I’ll insert an example from an earlier post here:
One of the most difficult cases you can debate is one in which the goal of the case is noble and appeals to emotions. The affirmative team has presented the problem that many military personnel can’t vote because of various inefficiencies in our voting system. It’s easy in a case like this to make it look like we the negative team do not support the military voting. Obviously, that’s not true. We agree whole-heartedly that the military should be able to vote, and we believe it’s a good goal.
The difference between the negative and affirmative teams is not that one wants the military to vote and the other doesn’t. The only difference is that we as the negative team are looking at the issue realistically. And we recognize that no matter how noble the goal, the affirmative team’s plan simply will not and cannot work.
This gets the judge on your side immediately, because they can empathize with being in a difficult position. It also paints you as a human who genuinely cares about the problem the affirmative team brought up.
This is key to effectively taking the moral high-ground. Simply beating around the bush and trying to show how you uphold the value too is not nearly as likely to work.
Step 3. Show off your shiny high-ground
This part takes the longest, because you’ll want to develop a convincing narrative for why you are the one with the highest ground.
Evidence really helps, but if you are a good speaker, you can pull basically anything off.
I’ll give you a couple of examples to get you a good idea of how this works. These will be short in the interest of getting the point across quickly, but keep in mind it might take your entire speech.
Example 1: Military voting
While I agree the military should be able to have a vote in our election system, we need to take into account the practical realities of life. I wish we could just talk theoretically and pretend it’s easy to collect their votes, but that’s not how the world works.[Explain several complications with military voting, such as shifting bases and no permanent address]
Furthermore, in the interest of helping the military, the affirmative team institutes a frankly barbaric standard. In their mandate from the first speech, they said that if a county clerk does not send all the military ballots in time, he or she will serve 5 years in prison as well as face an $100,000 fine.
To put this in perspective, assaulting a disabled person or a child will get you one year in prison according to several state laws. The affirmative team is basically making a clerical error equal to assaulting five children.
If that doesn’t sound ridiculous enough, I want you to consider how long one year is. Think about everything you did in the last year of your life. All the good times, the rough times. Now multiply that by 5. And now imagine that instead of doing all those things, you were sitting in prison because you procrastinated at work. Put yourselves in the shoes of one of these clerks. That’s pretty awful.
So yes, the military should be able to vote. But let’s consider the challenges of real life and let’s not punish clerks unnecessarily.
One day, someone might figure out a way to get the military a reliable vote. Today is not that day. The affirmative team’s plan is not the one. The affirmative team wants to look sympathetic because they’re helping our brothers overseas, but they’re missing a big chunk of reality.
Example 2: Vouchers for everyone to contribute to campaigns
The Affirmative team is in a great position for emotional appeals. They look like the sympathetic ones, while we’re the “big bad negative team” that doesn’t want to help poor people. Whether or not they explicitly say it, it’s assumed.
Let me be clear. We’re not here to hurt poor people’s chances at contributing to politics. Our job is to acknowledge the reality of the world we live in. It’s not a pretty job, but it’s our job as the negative team.
So, you are probably wondering, why would I say all this? What am I going to do about it?
The answer lies all the way back with the founding fathers. They talked about issues that mirror the one in front of us today, and in particular they talked about a term called “egalitarianism”.[read some evidence about founding fathers and egalitarianism]
Egalitarianism is the principle behind welfare programs. Now it doesn’t look so good, does it?
Egalitarians have the misguided belief that everything should just be equal. That’s just not how life works, though. Not everyone can be equal. Some people can give a better campaign speech than others. Some people are natural-born leaders. Some are born into families with more money to make campaign donations. And that’s okay, we shouldn’t try to artificially make everyone equal.
Those who do not have enough money to make a campaign contribution can contribute their vote, which is way more important than $200. A $200 voucher does not give anyone influence over the political system. It is laughably insignificant. This policy before us is a feel-good policy, and nothing more.
Ideas for when to use this technique
On a more serious note, whenever the affirmative team takes a moral high-ground, use this technique.
Even if all you run is solvency, then you tell the judge that you aren’t against their value, you just know that their plan won’t achieve it effectively, etc.
You can always squeeze it in.
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