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What makes a good affirmative case?  Aside from one that wins, most debaters look for policies that they believe should be implemented in the real world, and more specifically, ones that create the most benefits.  For instance, if one course of action would increase GDP by a billion dollars, and another would increase GDP by a hundred billion dollars, the debater would be inclined to prefer the latter when brainstorming potential cases.  After all, the more advantages you create, the harder it is for the negative to outweigh those advantages, and the more likely you are to win.  Or is that so?

Let’s back up a bit.  The job of the affirmative team, barring outlandish scenarios, is to prove that the benefits of their plan significantly outweigh the disadvantages, IE, it must create more good than harm.  Critically, however, past “significant,” the degree of the affirmative advantage is irrelevant.  That is, one case may prevent a nuclear war while another might shave a couple billion dollars off of annual spending, and while the former is certainly better, both options ultimately create the same result, an affirmative ballot.  Therefore, the ideal case is not the one that creates the most epic world ever, but rather the one that is most easily shown to create a significant net benefit (the extent of which may, granted, be relatively limited) over the course of that one-hour and fifteen-minute discussion known as policy debate.  

This begs the question: what is most defendable?  I’ve got a couple suggestions:

First, above all things, you should look for a case where the DA’s are limited or non-existent.  To be perfectly clear, this isn’t because DA’s are some sort of negative armageddon, but rather because in the context of policy debate (not anywhere else), they are the hardest to respond to, specifically during the 1AR due to time constraints.  The affirmative, by definition, attempts to prove in their very first speech that their plan is topical, that it’s inherent in the current system, that there’s a significant problem, and that they solve said problem, and thus, future responses to attacks on these points often are based on pre-existing analysis from the 1AC and therefore don’t consume much time.  Very rarely will spiking DA’s in the 1AC be a practical choice, as, first, to do so is unconventional and thus frowned upon, and second, because doing so moves time to what is effectively a secondary purpose of the 1AC and away from its essential purpose of presenting a prima facie case.  In short, DA’s are unique in that they must be responded to by new evidence and analysis, and while it certainly is possible to do so successfully, one must be willing to spend significant blocks of time in the 1AR doing so and risk spreading themselves too thin.  It’s also worth noting that DA’s, small though they may be in some instances, give the negative offense, and a solid negative team may be able to impact a seemingly small drawback to something significantly larger (this post made by the nuclear war gang.  For real though, we’ve all seen at least one round where a good neg beat a novice team by posting up with a money DA against a lives advantage.)

To use an example, during the 2017-2018 season in NCFCA, the number one case being run at nationals (in terms of popularity) concerned itself with enacting new legislation to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.  The winning case, however, simply mandated that college students be sent letters telling them how much debt they had from student loans.  The scope of the advantages claimed by the affirmative would obviously be greater in the former case.  However, there certainly were viable DA’s negatives could run (IE, that the wording of the reform would actually worsen the problem).  While the letters case may seem a bit silly, negative teams debating against it, for obvious reasons, couldn’t do much in terms of DA’s, and this, combined with solid affirmative evidence that the plan would lead to a decrease in student debt, resulted in that team winning the tournament.

Therefore, one should pick cases based on the scope of available DA’s.  But secondly, one should pick cases that have obscure/bizarre (but provable) solvency.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the alternative is to pick a case with clear-cut solvency; IE, reforms that seem like an obvious choice.  However, if those reforms initially seem like such a good idea, they’ve most likely already been considered by analysts and politicians and, obviously, rejected for some reason, a reason, though its degree of validity may vary by case, gives the negative some sort of ground.  But second, if your solvency initially seems somewhat obscure or dubious, this invites the negative to focus more on arguing solvency and less on arguing DA’s, which, as discussed before, helps with 1AR time skew.

Hope y’all found this helpful!

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