Making 2AR choices - Claire McKinney
Often in debates, the 2AR snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. What I mean is that sometimes a 2NR fails to do any of the following things:
1 ) Does not do impact calculus, picks the wrong impact to heavily favor, or fails to
even extend a terminal impact (this is common when they go for a counterplan with an internal net benefit, or when the terminal impacts to both the affirmative and the negative positions are very similar like hegemony and deterrence)
2 ) Does not kick out of a turned argument well or at all.
3 ) Fails to hedge their bets by making even-if statements or comparative risk analysis (similar to impact calculus, but may have more to do with comparing warrants on uniqueness, link, or internal link questions)
As a judge, one often expects the 2AR to easily exploit these mistakes and make use of that Aff Side Bias to easily dispense with a poorly executed 2NR. Yet more often than not, the affirmative replicates the mistakes of the 2NR. I think there are three main reasons the affirmative might do this.
1 ) The 2AR is seduced into thinking that where the negative went was the most
important part of the debate.
2 ) The 2AR feels pressure to refute everything the 2NR said.
3 ) The 2AR tries to extend everything the 1AR said.
These are not mutually exclusive and all point to the problem of not thinking about the big picture and making strategic choices. Here are a few tips of how to begin to think systematically about a winning 2AR and how to capitalize on 2NR mistakes.
--The 2AR overview. Write one. Many overview naysayers think they serve little purpose, but I believe that the 2AR overview is where you isolate what you need to win and why winning it means you win the debate forces you to do two thinks that are vital in prep time. The first is that you force yourself to make a strategic decision. Will you win on a dropped turn? On a solvency deficit to the counterplan? The permutation? Because you needs to isolate THE reason you win (not three reasons), you will have to analyze what arguments you have to answer to do so, what arguments are irrelevant, and how to persuade the judge that the negative was inadequate on those positions. Second, you are reminded of the importance of impact calculus. Do this impact calculus in the top of the 2AR and you won’ t forget to do it later on the flow.
-- Less is more. Sure, you need defense on the key negative arguments, but you shouldn’ t extend ALL your defense or EVERY solvency deficit to the counterplan. You should extend the solvency deficit that is most true or is the largest and thus gets you access to the largest impact. In a debate I recently saw, the 2AR extended two solvency deficits to a counterplan, one for each advantage. However, the counterplan obviously solved one advantage and the time it took to extend the second solvency deficit made it such that the 2AR didn’ t extend a terminal impact to either advantage. If the 2AR had focused on just one solvency deficit, then there would have been a complete argument as opposed to two distinct halves of two distinct arguments.
--Evidence comparison is your friend. Even if you are behind on an issue after the 1AR, if you do evidence comparison, you can make new arguments in the comparison of the
warrants of the evidence. For instance, even if the debate had hitherto been as shallow as heg solves war versus heg doesn’ t solve war up until the 2AR, you can use the evidence as a place to argue that the 2NRs evidence just says hegemony cannot stop a conflict from beginning, but your evidence indicates that hegemony can stop the escalation of war because political leaders will avoid entangling other powers through escalation for fear of losing to a preponderance of American power. IF your evidence actually supports your warrants (and that’ s a big IF), most judges will allow this type of evidence comparison because the extension of the evidence in the 1AR made this comparison predictable. It’ s better if the warrants come out earlier, but if they don’ t, you can argue the evidence extension gave the negative ample opportunity to do their own comparison. A corollary, of course, is that if you hide new arguments in warrant comparison and your evidence DOESN’ T make the claims you say, you are very likely to lose.
-- Making new arguments is often a no-lose prospect. While your first instincts should be depth is better than breadth and the 1AR ought to set up your 2AR strategy, sometimes, especially in impact calculus, new arguments will be accepted and even welcomed.
For instance, if the 2AR is the first time you make a timeframe outweighs magnitude argument, if it is the ONLY such comparison, the judge may very well allow it because there is nothing else to guide their decisionmaking. Even if the judge doesn’ t allow the new comparison, all it did was waste 5-10 seconds and the payoff is potentially much greater than the cost. Notice that this advice is conditioned on what else happened in the debate. Impact calculus that the neg starts early and goes unrefuted will make this strategy much less likely to payoff. Exploit the failures of the 2NR to give the judge something to hang onto.
In the end, remember that the greatest strategic asset of the 2AR is that you get to ignore a lot of what the 2NR says because if you make one argument very well, that often is much better than answering all their shallow arguments with an equal number of shallow arguments. Shallow versus shallow makes for unhappy judges and coin flip decisions.Shallow versus depth makes for happy judges and much more certainty in your wins.
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