Tips for Nationals #2: Cast a Broad Net

Posted by Bryan

This one is for the debaters in the crowd. So you made it to nationals, and now you’re facing competition from all over the country. If you’re lucky, you might have a caselist of what some of the people from other regions are running, but it’s probably incomplete or they might run a new case (but not if they follow Tip #1!). You sit down on your computer, fire up Google, grab a cup of coffee, and prepare for a long night of researching against each specific case. Before you know it, it’s 2am, your eyelids are drooping, you have only found evidence for five cases, and you’re in serious danger of waking up the next morning with the imprint of a keyboard on your face. There must be a better way!

Well, there is. Specific evidence is fantastic, and you should get it when at all possible, but you have two weeks left to prepare and a huge topic. No matter how much you research, you’ll probably face multiple cases at nationals you’ve never even thought of. That’s where generic arguments come in. Try to find arguments that will apply to a large number of cases. For example, if the affirmative has a “hard line” policy (i.e. taking action against China), you could have some cards that say hard line policies will backfire and lead to all kinds of bad things. You could do the same for soft line. Boom! Between those two arguments, you have a solid argument against any case they can run. Find a few arguments like that, and no matter what they throw at you, you’ll have something to say. Of course, case-specific evidence is best, but that’s not always possible. Always have some generic arguments ready, just in case.

As we explain in our upcoming book 101: An Introduction to Team Policy Debate:

“Generic arguments, especially generic disadvantages, are key to your success as a negative. There is no way you will be able to think of and prepare for every possible affirmative case out there. This is especially true in the NCFCA because resolutions tend to be incredibly broad. Generic arguments help level the playing field; they give you something to run even if you’ve never heard of their case before. Generics also give you a kind of ‘home turf.’ If you run a certain position a lot, you will learn it so thoroughly that you can easily predict and refute arguments against it, giving you an area of the round where you’re playing offense, not defense.”

In addition to the examples I gave earlier, here are a couple other generic arguments I ran when I debated China in college:

Increasing trade with China will strengthen the CCCP (Communist Party) and lead to human rights abuses.

Decreasing trade with China weakens the CCP and threatens collapse of the Chinese government (Note on this: In reality, if there was any risk of collapse, China would go to war with India, Japan, and/or Taiwan. That should be fairly easy to find cards for, since basically, every expert agrees on this.)

Increasing relations with China would cause Taiwan or Japan to build or buy a nuke and destabilize the region.

Decreasing relations with China would cause a trade war.

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