In most value resolutions, the things we compare tend to be both very positive. Liberal arts vs Practical skills. National security vs freedom of the press. Needs of the public and private property rights. But this year’s NCFCA resolution is a bit different,
As I explained in an earlier article, nationalism and globalism are words that tend to have negative connotations rather than positive ones. But Affirmatives face a much steeper slope than Negatives. Globalism-bashing tends to be primarily about the economic consequences of free trade. Actual attacks on “globalism” tend to be relegated to Alex Jones rants or dispensationalist theories about the Mark of the Beast.
But nationalism is a different story. Many in the audience have a picture of nationalism explained very well by this cartoon:
To many (myself included), associations with nationalism are pretty grim material. Nationalism arose in the 19th century and led to the fruitless competition and tension which gave rise to the Great War. Nationalism, resurgent again, lent itself to the fascists of the interwar years, ultimately ending them. Nationalism drove Germany, Italy and Japan to begin the Second World War. Nationalism led to the invasion of Poland, the Rape of Nanking, and the Holocaust itself.
Even today, nationalism is most associated with the Richard Spencers of the world who rallied in Charlottesville last week. The kind who fly Confederate flags and call themselves Nazis and make liberal use of the N-word. The kind every self-respecting American denounces with every breath in their lungs. The kind that Germany has been trying to outlaw for years.
That’s what you’re up against as Affirmative. Finding a solid definition of nationalism is not enough. Devoting a Resolutional analysis to outlining what nationalism really means is not enough. Calling the Founding Fathers nationalists is not enough.
You have to completely recast nationalism in your judge’s minds. That isn’t easy. But there are some techniques you can employ. Let’s explore three ideas.
Find a Good Definition
It all starts with ensuring that you and your judge are on the same page. Find a credible source which explains that nationalism does not mean alt-Right Nazis but a focus first on the nation to which you belong. Then explain this to the judge. Establish that the credible source defines nationalism in a way that’s fair to both sides and depicts the true nature of the idea, not just the opinion of a few racist idiots (side note: this could be hard, given that nationalism as an ideology is often taken up in name only by said racist idiots- the Nazis kind of spoiled it for everyone else). Everything else starts with the definition here.
Focus on Conflict
In a resolution which presents two concepts, one possible interpretation (and the one I prefer) is that they should be studied “when in conflict”. That is, when we have to choose one at the expense of the other. So you can explain to your judge that oftentimes, the two ideas go hand-in-hand. For example, most of the time, free trade is beneficial both to the nation and to the world- it’s a nation looking out for what’s best for its people and what’s best for the whole world. However, there are some times when free trade benefits the world at the expense of the nation. That’s when you see conflict. Using the in conflict approach means you focus on a few situations where you have to make that choice.
For example, you could use the topic of immigration as a theater of conflict. A truly nationalist immigration policy might only allow people in if they decided to fully join the nation politically and culturally (e.g. become a citizen, learn the language, renounce all other citizenships, etc.) as well as proving their usefulness to the nation. A fully globalist immigration policy might allow nearly anyone in, regardless of their commitment to the nation or their usefulness to it. Now naturally, few are going to side with either extreme. But with the conflict approach, you analyze the issue and determine the happy medium- then figure out whether that happy medium is more nationalist or globalist.
Now here’s where the really cool part comes in. If you play your cards right, you could even convince the judge who holds every association I laid out earlier that he or she is already a nationalist. Most of your audience is going to hold positions on immigration considerably right of center- more of a closed borders position. More of a nationalist position. So even if she thinks Affirmative is advocating for National Socialism on the way in, by the time she leaves, you could have shown her that she in fact already favors the kind of nationalism you propose.
Build a World
This may be my favorite debate tool of all. Building a world means that you use your time to show the judge the world where the resolution is affirmed or negated. For example, you could use rhetoric like this to describe the impact or rejecting nationalism:
“Imagine that your vote actually changes the world. Say you vote Negative. In a few years, this might be the world you see. The USA has joined an international organization called the Union of Western States, or the UWS. The UWS has taken over management of most of the armed forces in America, and deployed them across the world, quelling riots in Paris or guarding the border in Estonia. Thousands of new regulations have been slapped on businesses and individuals by the UWS, causing a definite economic slump in America. The Constitutional guarantees are no more- replaced by a commitment to “human rights” by the UWS. But that apparently does not include the right to refuse service based on religious beliefs or the right to criticize Islam. Sometimes we disregard what a privilege it is to live in a country like the United States. But we throw that privilege away when we decide in favor of globalism. Is life better without it?”
While I wouldn’t condone using that exact paragraph in a round, using two worlds rhetoric while painting a picture can help to engage your judge’s imagination by giving concrete details of the world where the other side is valued. Try to build a world in which the kind of nationalism you are arguing for (more national independence) actually leads to good results for the judge. Establishing the real impacts of your side can help to address the negative connotations.
In a debate which will frequently cause you to clarify that you are not literally Hitler, clarity on what you really stand for is key. That means a getting a solid definition, giving real examples, and developing a mental picture so your judge is sure to understand. In order to salvage your side from David Duke, make exactly what nationalism is beyond clear to the judge.
Unfortunately this prediction turned out to be false… I wish it was different though, in the context of the current bias towards nationalism.