Seriously. I know a bunch of you are heading to tournaments this weekend–for many of you it is your first, but for most of you it is your dozenth or moreth. For this latter, you have a pile of evidence (most of which you probably don’t understand because you haven’t read it), and a lot of “clever” generics. These will do you well, but…
As you listen to the 1AC and frantically calmly prepare your 1NC, the most important thing you can do is think. My last year of college debate we debated at maybe 6 parli tournaments and won all except one negative (opp) round. We took every coinflip opp if we could. Even though there is no prep time in this event, as long as you keep a solid head on your shoulders and think of basic things, you may surprise yourself to find yourself running arguments like this:
- Not prima facie — opponents haven’t actually detailed enough of their arguments and plan to be considered; they’re going to specify later to refute, rather than actually refuting. If their 2AC ends up being a lot of “my opponents’ evd didn’t apply exactly to my plan…no, what we’re really doing is this…they could’ve asked about HR 37489 in CX!” you will have been proven right.
Not topical — And I don’t mean on weird arguments like what “the” or “should” means. Many cases when you take a brightline look at them (have several brightlines on paper) will be found to violate them. My personal favorite is “necessary level of enforcement must be executive”. In other words, if my opponents have mandated something within the power of the executive branch (without Congress’ directive), then they are not making a substantial change to policy; they are mandating negative ground.
All the things you can say about evidence! Outdated, biased, conflicts with other evidence in case, doesn’t recommend exact version of case, not enough warrants for the conclusion, vagueness in numbers, etc etc. This requires you to listen very closely to the words of their quotes. 2NC will examine each quotation in the 1AC for more ideas, so go off of what you hear and pass the copy of the 1AC to your partner during prep.
Burden of Proof. I can’t tell you how many new judges are thinking along these lines, but the negative debaters are so advanced they forget basic concepts of evidence and proof. This is not for CX (avoid nasty tangles), but your 1NC should be looking at failures to prove. Do not confuse this with questioning, which I discourage (i.e. “1. My opponents must show 3 more sources agreeing for us to believe them,” “2. I just don’t see how they can count on the EPA to not be corrupt” are questions. These are arguments: 1. My opponents are claiming something so fantastic, that their one source with albiet impressive credentials would necessarily be joined by his colleagues in the field if this were so true. We see a lack of such corroboration. 2. The EPA is corrupt in [insert general area of 1AC focus, insert evidence of your own].).
Goals and criterion!! Your opponents are hoping to win by getting you to ignore the big idea, focusing on nitpicky things (some of which are outlined above, haha) and ignoring the main schibang. Don’t let this happen. Think ahead–what are your opponents going to say about your arguments? Prepare to explicitly show that either their case does not MEET their own goals (b/c of whatever DAs, lack of proof, etc), or that there are some other goals that are greater upon which it fails. If you do not do this, they are much more likely to prevail (oh, and “net benefits” doesn’t help you here unless you don’t have a coherent strategy and are just planning on running a wide variety of weak disadvantages).
Strong introduction. This should be one of your priorities for use of prep time. How are you going to make the negative team’s first impression to the judge? You need to be very confident, have a clear statement of contention, and with every bone in your body resist the urge to start “we’ve got a lot of arguments today, so I’m going to go down the flow.” Good starting statement example (if you have a hook, even better, but I’m starting to give up asking people for this):
Not in the history of the world has a scientific, theological, or political theory which gains its primary momentum from hype been able to last in any way other than the damage it creates, from the fears of the world’s end in the 1920s, to Y2K, to Russian Invasion, to Fear of Jews, to Hope and Change We can Believe In. Good morning, my name is Isaiah McPeak and we stand opposed to [the Carbon Tax] because of the hype upon which it is based and the disaster it must necessarily be as a plan.
At the end of that, any judge listening says “awright! The neg believes they are right, this will be a good debate”.
So as you prep this weekend, remember that those things that are NOT in your brief are some of your most helpful tools. You will find them in your brain.