Last time, we introduced spikes and preemption, and saw what they look like in the 1AC. Today, we move to the 2AC, and next time we’ll talk about Neg.
2AC spikes exist to mitigate the Neg block by making the 1AR easier. This article does a wonderful job of outlining what an effective 1AR looks like. Here, I’ll be focusing on the 2AC’s ability to facilitate an effective 1AR complete with clumping and dumping, and impact calculus/links back to the 1AC. Let’s look at each of those individually.
These are simple. You think you know an argument that’s coming in the Neg block, and you refute it preemptively. This works with entirely new arguments, or anticipated responses. For new arguments, you just signpost that the point hasn’t been made yet, and then do your four-point refutation. I find myself spiking anticipated responses far more often: “…Thus, this argument does not stand. Now, the Negative team may respond by saying [blah blah blah], but in reality….” The 10-30 seconds invested here can pay great dividends.
In this situation, the Negative team can drop the point, or do one of three things: say [blah blah blah] anyways, provide alternative refutation to the point, or refute the spike. Each of these puts you in a good position. Surprisingly, in my experience, the first response is actually the most common. If they simply ignore your spike and make the point anyway, all the 1AR has to do is remind the judge of the unaddressed spike. In 5 seconds, Neg loses a bunch of credibility, and the point is refuted.
If they choose to provide alternative refutation, that refutation will typically be weaker than the response you predicted—if you’re anticipating and preempting the best version of their responses, it’s a win for you to force them to make worse arguments in the first place.
Choosing to refute the spike’s refutation is generally the best decision Neg can make in this situation. In the above two scenarios, Aff profits regardless of the argument’s content. In this case, however, two things have happened: you’ve artificially advanced the series of responses around the argument, and you’ve made it stand out from the pack more. Whether this helps or hurts your chances in the round is contingent on if you can actually win the point. That said, Aff should be more prepared—generally speaking, going further down the line of responses for a particular point should hurt Neg more than it hurts you. If you’re going to use traditional spikes, prep responses to the responses to those spikes.
The callback clump and dump
Clumping and dumping—grouping arguments together and refuting them all at once—is an invaluable practice for rebuttals, particularly the 1AR. In order to clump and dump in a valid fashion, the arguments you’re clumping must have some substantive commonality. Most frequently, this will be something like a shared warrant, external link, or impact. So, the structure for a clump and dump is normal four-point refutation, except you have to A) clearly signpost what the common element you’re attacking is, B) specify which arguments share that element, and C) prove that refuting said commonality actually defeats the arguments.
This in mind, the 2AC can anticipate these commonalities and spike or undermine them. In my experience, it’s useful to distinguish between two categories: existing commonalities, and anticipated commonalities.
Existing commonalities are when the warrants/links/impacts/whatever-you-want-to-spike exist in arguments that the Negative team has already made. This lends itself to a rather robust spike, since you were going to refute the associated arguments anyway. While doing so, emphasize the underlying problem with the argument that the 1AR will want to clump and dump later: “This argument fails because the notion that our plan would hurt relations is fundamentally untenable—if the Negative team wants to talk about nuclear war, they must first demonstrate that [whatever country you’re yelling about] would even be annoyed by our plan, and they simply cannot.” Accompanying this rhetoric, of course, must be a thorough refutation of the link/warrant/impact in question. Then, when the 1AR wants to clump and dump arguments about harmed relations, they just have to show that the arguments they’re refuting rely on that link, and give a truncated version of the earlier, more robust refutation (or refute Neg’s response to that refutation, likely still an easier/faster task). A 1AR that can constantly harken back to the previous two speeches for their refutation is extremely effective—it’s fast, it’s sound, it makes the Negative team look negligent, and it builds narrative cohesion throughout the Affirmative speeches.
Predicted commonalities are commonalities that don’t exist in arguments that have already been made, but that you expect to arise. Theoretically, you could treat this like a traditional spike, and signpost that you’re refuting anticipated commonalities. I’ve never done it or seen it done this way, but it’s probably worth experimenting with in some practice rounds.
More frequently, this sort of preemption takes an Affirmative principle and makes it relevant. The 2AC isn’t just (or even primarily) about refutation; it’s about strengthening the Affirmative position. When you’re building up your position, you’ll often end up talking about things that are relevant to anticipated commonalities in Neg arguments. Returning to the harmed relations example, suppose an advantage of your case is improved relations. When discussing that advantage, you could stress the warrant, and say that the Negative team must disprove that warrant to win the relations issue. Then, the 1AR can remind the judge of that argumentation, and simply use a truncated version of it in their clump and dump. My partners during my last two years of TP did this constantly, and it worked well—when planning your 2AC, constantly be thinking about how you can use the principles in it to make future clumping and dumping easier.
If you’re a debater, impact calculus is your best friend. If you use it, it’s the most important thing in the round. If you didn’t, it’s probably why you lost. Impact calculus should go in every single speech, always. In most rounds, the impact calculus boils down to a conflict between competing principles or interests, like utilitarianism vs deontology, or fiscal responsibility vs global influence. Therefore, the 2AC’s impact calculus can be designed in such that the 1AR, in many cases, can use its warrants. In other words, the 1AR doesn’t have to spend time introducing entirely new argumentation to the judge; they just have to reinforce and reapply argumentation that’s already been thoroughly explained. This benefits you because it lends the Affirmative team cohesion, and it makes impact calculus in the 1AR much faster without sacrificing efficacy. It’s not a spike, but it’s a valuable form of preemption.
The Affirmative team has an incredibly powerful ability to define and frame the debate. Through careful case writing and clever speeches, a good Aff team won’t just be debating, they’ll be building a powerful narrative around their policy. At its core, that means giving the judge something—on both an intellectual and emotional level—to vote for, a vision to grab onto. Often, the 1AR is where that armor starts to crack: a 1AR that gets overwhelmed and loses sight of his or her case’s core principles is a dead 1AR. Conversely, the most effective 1ARs continue to build their narrative through their refutation and impact calculus. At their core, this is what good 2AC spikes facilitate: they provide a firm foundation on which the 1AR continues to build. Of course, how you deal with specific arguments is still important—don’t miss the trees for the forest—but your spikes should further your team’s strategic narrative cohesion.