A wise man once said: “when you have 3 minutes to address a 6 minute speech, you don’t have time for an opening quote.” This common, comical opener for the 2AR demonstrates the number 1 problem that most affirmatives have with the 2AR, it’s just too short. Ideally you would be able to address everything that happened in a debate round in the 2AR, but for those of us who can talk as fast as Eminem or have trouble being concise and have to drop some points: how do you choose what to rebut?
There are two main factors I take into accounts when deciding what to rebut. The first is the logical significance of the point and their case structure. Most cases follow one of two logical structures. First:
Where the contentions don’t rely on each other such as: C1 Proactionary principle protects innovators freedom, C2 Proactionary principle leads to more innovation
The second structure is:
Where the contentions work together to form a strong argument. Such as C1: proactionary principle leads to more innovation, C2: Innovation saves lives.
Regardless of which case structure your opponent’s case uses, all you need to break down the logic of your opponent’s case is to rebut one level of the structure. If you can prove your opponent’s definitions are inaccurate, then it doesn’t really matter if their contentions are accurate if they are no longer applicable under the new definitions you have provided. If you have proven your value to be higher than theirs, then it doesn’t matter how well their contentions achieve their value if their value isn’t what you’re trying to achieve. And if you can rebut their contentions it doesn’t matter how great their value is since they can no longer achieve their value. Under this reasoning, rather than trying to rebut your opponents entire speech, it is better to focus on one level that you know you can thoroughly rebut. The important thing to point out is using this strategy is that it makes impacting your point extremely important. It’s not enough to just destroy the logical structure of your opponent’s speech, you also need to make sure the judge knows it. If you want to focus on one area, let’s say the value, you need to explain to the judge why the value was so important to your opponent’s case and why by winning the value clash your opponent’s case is no longer logical.
The second factor I take into account when deciding what to rebut is what the judge thought was important. Unfortunately this is much harder to figure out consistently for sure. There are two main ways I figure out what the judge thought was important. The first is by looking at the judges’ reactions. If a judge was unusually expressive or wrote on their flow more than normal during a given argument, then chances are that argument stood out to the judge and you should devote more time than you typically would to it. The second way is by looking at how much time you and your opponent have spent on the topic. Even if you think the argument is unimportant, if your opponent has spent half their speaking on the topic chances are it has stood out to the judge and they will be looking for a response from you.
Overall what to address in the 2AR isn’t an exact science, but using these two methods can help you to make the best use of your 2AR.
D. J. is an economics major at North Carolina State University. Her debate philosophy is that debate should be fun for everyone, so keep it ethical so your opponent can enjoy the round, keep it entertaining so the judge enjoys it, and keep it lively and humorous so you can enjoy the round too.
To learn more about D. J. you can read her bio here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/djmendenhall/ or book coaching with her here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/xl-3/