We received the following question from one of our peeps in Texas:

A coach I know recently informed me that he’d slay any (team policy) student he knew that would put for their timeline “upon an affirmative ballot”. His reasoning was basically that not only was it unrealistic since bills are never passed that quickly, but it also has the potential for DA’s, as in the case of cases that mess with funding, or sending the military somewhere suddenly, or passing a restrictive law. He said the timeline had better be at the next fiscal year (FY 2011) or at a timeline that allows for notices. He recommended checking out some reals bills similar to our cases to see what their timeline is.

Everything he said made sense logically, but wouldn’t it all (except for mebbe the fiscal year bit) be a little too technical? What do you recommend timeline-wise?

Response by Isaiah (feel free to chime in in the comments)

This issue is subjective! Some people feel strongly about issues that others consider do not matter. In my opinion, timeline matters very little in the grander scheme of things (like why we might want to overhaul policy and what that policy might look like). To reiterate, what follows is my opinion.

I almost never list timeline in a 1AC. It is obvious in most cases that the mandates of the case will be enacted as soon as possible. Obviously there are details BELOW the “policymaking” level, but this is a policy debate (not because we call it that, but because the resolution requires policy-decision-making-level analysis to be affirmed). A negative team making hay on sub-policy details isn’t negating the resolution or the aff case really.

So like usual, you have to use your brain to decide when timeline actually is important. For example, if you have a three-part plan and there are several phases, then you want to specify which phases happen when. If it’s a plan that says “we will ratify New START” then no timeline is necessary, because ratification will occur reasonably soon after the decision has been made. Let’s remember a “debate ballot” does nothing — you just persuaded a judge that a policy decision should be made, so they cast a ballot, but they aren’t ACTUAL Congresspeople and the ballot they cast doesn’t ACTUALLY pass anything.

So I agree with this coach that it is silly to say “the plan will be passed immediately on your signature of the affirmative ballot”. No it won’t. I usually just tell people that’s silly… because they didn’t use their brains, but probably just copied what someone else’s plan said.

Principles for Good Mandates

1. Don’t get bogged down in the SUB-policy details. Yes, you need to have the details of your policy figured out, but you don’t need to identify how many staff will be needed to support the new plan, of what seniority and pay grade, whether they will be contractors or government, etc etc (unless those are issues identified in the literature that NEED to be specified at the policy level to avoid disadvantages).

2. Know why you are saying any words that come out of your mouth. Much like the whole “we reserve the right to expand on our case” that crept into some people’s language because they thought they saw smart people saying that (it makes no sense! Of course you can’t expand your plan after the 1AC, and of course you CAN explain it without saying the words “we reserve the right to explain”), that “timeline” is even a necessary part of a plan is highly dubious. With exception for the plans where timeline is important…

3. Plan advocacy is essential. If you have a plan crafted based on a recommendation of some expert, then you can put some trust in it. “My plan advocate did not identify any issues with when the plan is carried into effect” effectively rebuffs some smarty-pants neg whose argument against a policy is “but they didn’t specify a timeline! We don’t know when it will happen!” That neg is grasping at straws and ignoring the substance of the debate. Advocacy helps protect you against made up arguments, because your plan isn’t just made up in your head!

4. Focus on the substance of the policy change. Rather than “Mandate: Congress will pass Bill 27895037” you want to actually outline what the bill DOES. Or else there is a good argument that you aren’t prima facie because you haven’t actually told the judge or neg what the policy IS, and you force neg to expend energy explaining it to argue against it.

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Photo Courtesy of BeeGee2007

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