Chapter 6

The Second Negative Constructive

 

What are the goals of the Second Negative Constructive speech?

So far in the debate, the Negative has been responding to Affirmative arguments — reacting to their issues, rather than establishing new issues of its own. In the 2NC speech, you finally have a chance to expand the debate greatly into areas the Affirmative hasn’t anticipated. The word "constructive" is very appropriate here: you will be constructing a great edifice of reasons why the plan is flawed and should be rejected.

This is also the beginning of the Negative block, a vast period of time in which the judge hears only Negative arguments. This is your chance to swamp the Affirmative with details. You should concentrate on grabbing the offensive position for the rest of the debate.

Third, this is your chance to address the last two stock issues: solvency and disadvantages. Your solvency attacks will prove that the plan cannot work. Your disadvantages will show that the plan will spawn hordes of disastrous side-effects that justify rejecting it, regardless of whether it works or not.

This should be a polished speech. You’ve had at least two speeches to prepare for it; you probably didn’t pay much attention to 1NC and 2AC anyway. Do your best to demolish the plan. The next Affirmative speech — 1AR — is by its very nature a difficult speech. Your goal is to make it impossible.

 

What is the format of the Second Negative Constructive?

Usually, it will appear in this format:

There is no summary or conclusion at the end. You won’t have time to present one. The First Negative, in his rebuttal, will summarize the Negative stand at that time. If you really feel your speech needs a formal closing, use something like, "Because the plan will not work — I’ve shown you four reasons — and because it leads to seven disadvantages including nuclear war, we’ll ask for a Negative ballot at the end of the debate."

 

What is the purpose of the introduction?

You may want to begin by referring back to your partner’s Negative philosophy before going into the plan attacks. Or you can just forecast what you plan to do: "I am going to start with an overview on inherency, and then present one PMA and four D-A’s." (This jargon will be explained later).

Often — especially for novice debaters — the introduction can serve to explain apparent contradictions between the two Negative speeches. Solvency attacks say that the plan won’t cure the Affirmative harms. That seems to imply that the Second Negative accepts that the Affirmative harms do exist, that the Affirmative inherency is valid, and that any minor repairs suggested during 1NC will fail. When 2NC presents disadvantages, those also may apply to Negative minor repairs. To an inexperienced judge — and novice teams often get inexperienced judges — this looks as if the Negative partners are contradicting each other.

One way to explain this is in the introduction: "My partner has shown you that there are no great harms in the status quo, and no inherent barrier. Believe him. But pretend with me during the next eight minutes that the Affirmative analysis is substantially correct. I’d like to show that, even if we accept the Affirmative’s harm and inherency, the plan won’t solve the harms and it will cause great disadvantages."

 

What is the purpose of an overview on the case?

Bear in mind that this type of overview should be fairly rare. An overview is a major argument that doesn’t fit in well with the standard pattern of speaker duties. As we will see in the chapter on flowcharting, there is no easy way for the judge to record need or inherency arguments made by 2NC. Therefore, whenever you present an overview, you risk confusing the judge. For that reason, you won’t present such positions often.

However, sometimes they are necessary. If 2AC extensions call for a major new argument on harm or inherency, the Negative has to take a stand in this speech or forfeit the issue. After 2NC, the only remaining speeches are rebuttals, and no new arguments may be made in rebuttals. If faced with this situation, the best course is for 2NC to use an overview to outline the issue and let 1NR expand it. Since the argument was officially introduced in the Constructive speech, this is a legitimate tactic.

Secondly, you might need an overview to present a topicality challenge. Most judges will ignore a nontopicality argument presented in 2NC. But you might have success with justification or extratopicality, especially if new information has come to light in 2AC to make these arguments more reasonable.

Third, an overview is justified if there has been a major shift or contradiction between the Affirmative partners. Take a few seconds to note the conflict to the judge, and show its impact on the debate. Consider this argument: "I wish to call attention to a major shift by the Affirmative team. The First Affirmative told us that the American poor are often homeless. My partner refuted that. Then the Second Affirmative argued that, when the poor did have homes, they were often unsatisfactory, rat-infested, lacking hot water, and so on. Note first that the Affirmative has abandoned their original harm claim in the face of Negative refutation. Note also that their inherency arguments only support the homelessness harm — they have not yet established inherency for the inadequate housing harm, and it’s too late in the debate for them to present that. This shift destroys the prima facie standing of their case. And in the next speech, my partner will show that the poor do indeed have access to decent housing."

 

Does 2NC ever deal with harm and inherency?

I would say "no." Except as noted above, when a major new issue develops in 2AC, you don’t touch the case issues. Especially, you do not go back and repeat the arguments presented in 1NC.

Why not? Well, your partner is going to review and extend on case arguments in the very next speech, the First Negative Rebuttal. If you cover case arguments first, he won’t have anything to say. Also, you only have eight minutes — that will be barely be enough time for you to present your plan attacks. You don’t want to cover issues that have already been addressed; you want to open up new topics.

Now I get to contradict everything I just said. Despite the firm command in the last two paragraphs, there will be times when the Second Negative spends some or all of his time discussing case issues. But this is part of a deliberate strategy of reassigning speaker duties. It’s an advanced technique — we’ll discuss it in a later chapter — not really suitable for new debaters. Additionally, recent trends in debate strategy suggest that the 2NC should never present new arguments; see the last section of this chapter for a discussion.

 

What is the biggest mistake made by Second Negatives?

Some Second Negative speakers choose to go point-by-point down the Affirmative plan, making solvency and disadvantage arguments as they meet points worth contending. This approach is awful. In doing this, the 2NC speaker limits his plan attacks to Affirmative terrain. There is no way to go beyond the 1AC Affirmative issues to show how the plan will not work, and it’s very hard to break free of the Affirmative plan format to introduce novel disadvantages.

Many points of the Affirmative plan will not require specific attacks. The Second Negative looks silly challenging the Intent portion of the plan, for example. The strongest plan objections concentrate on the plan’s functioning as a whole; a point-by-point approach makes such holistic attacks impossible to present. An effective Second Negative will present his own structure.

 

How do I present solvency arguments?

You will want to develop one or more complete arguments that suggest the Affirmative plan will not work. These are usually called Plan-Meet-Need or Plan-Meet-Advantage arguments … but most commonly, they are called by their initials: PMN and PMA. As the names suggest, these arguments propose that the Affirmative plan will fail to solve (meet) the need or advantage area which was proposed.

It’s important to stress that the PMN is a structured Negative argument — it does not just react to the solvency evidence and analysis of 1AC.

A typical PMN is structure as follows:

[Factor X] will prevent solving the harms.

A. The Affirmative plan calls for [some items].

B. [These items] cannot be obtained

 

1. Various subpoints as needed…

 

2. …to explain why…

 

3. …the particular items aren't available.

C. Without the needed support, the plan fails to solve.

This example illustrates the crucial parts of a PMN. The label (sometimes called the tag or name) is the top line. You will, of course, tell the judge that this is your first, or third, or twentieth PMN argument before presenting the label. The label is a neat summary of how the argument will develop.

The first point of substructure — the A point, here — is called the plan link. It notes the purpose of the Affirmative plan: either the main goal, or a supporting purpose. Usually, you do not need evidence to prove a plan link. It should be obvious.

The bulk of the PMN is devoted to reasons why this desired goal is unavailable; this explication may take up several major points and involve a lot of subpoints. The last line explains the impact of the argument — the effect the PMN has on the debate. Often, this is done by showing how much solvency the Affirmative team loses by the argument. An absolute PMN means that the plan will never work, and that no easing of the problem will occur. A partial PMN claims that the plan will work imperfectly, solving only a fraction of the harm the Affirmative team identifies.

Please notice how here (and in the examples that follow) we use the same sort of outline structure that the Affirmative team used in developing their case: alternating letters and numbers, and labels for each point that are full, declarative sentences.

 

Give me an example of a PMN.

Okay. The resolution is on health care for all U.S. citizens. The Affirmative team is providing free health insurance to all Americans, with a deductible amount that increases as the patient’s income rises. The program is financed by means of a $1 tax on every citizen. The Affirmative hopes to improve the nation’s health, especially that of poor people. The Second Negative presents these PMN arguments:

PMN 1. Shortage of medical resources prevents improved health.

A. Medical resources are vital to the Affirmative plan.

 

1. The plan provides only insurance coverage.

 

2. Insurance helps only when medical care is available. *

B. Insurance increases demand for medical resources. *

C. A doctor shortage prevents the plan from working.

 

1. There is a doctor shortage now *

 

2. General practitioners are in short supply. *

 

3. Surgeons and other specialists are in short supply. *

 

4. Fewer medical degrees are expected in the future. *

D. A nursing shortage prevents the plan from working.

 

1. The supply meets only 80% of current demand.*

 

2. Fewer nursing degrees are being sought. *

E. A severe shortage of hospital beds exists. *

F. Inadequate supplies of medical support are available.

 

1. Blood supplies are low. *

 

2. Few organ donations are offered. *

 

3. We’re running out of tongue depressors. *

G. Lack of resources dooms the Affirmative plan.

PMN 2. The Affirmative plan is financially unsound

A. Affirmative plan raises $290 million.

B. Current needs of the poor far exceed that figure. *

C. Plan requires more money than current programs.

 

1. Universal insurance will increase medical demand.*

 

2. Universal insurance will spark inflation in health care costs. *

D. The plan will be less effective than current Medicaid benefits.

The points marked with asterisks would normally require evidence. Both PMNs are examples of the partial PMN argument. In the first example, note that the plan link uses two points of substructure to make its point that insurance, by itself, is not enough — we also need the medical resources that insurance money buys. The B point suggests that, in general, if resources are limited now, increased demand will make them far more so under the Affirmative plan. Points C to F show that medical resources of various types are limited now, and are not expected to increase under the Affirmative plan. Finally, the G point would be supported with analysis to argue that, with all these limitations, the Affirmative is going to lose most of their solvency.

This first PMN is a generic PMN. The arguments advanced will be appropriate to a wide variety of Affirmative cases during the debate season. Only the specific links to the plan may need to be rewritten for each round. Such a PMN can be prepared ahead of time and used whenever necessary.

The second example takes advantage of a flaw in the plan. Point A, the plan link, notes the limited amount of money raised: at most, $1 for every person in the U.S., or about $290 million dollars. The Negative could also have argued that this is an unreasonably high estimate, since a good portion of our population (those under age 5) is unlikely to have even that much personal income in the course of a year. Since the plan covers insurance needs based on ability to pay, the poor will get free care. But Medicaid, which now provides free care to the poor, already spends several billion dollars each year. Replacing that with $290 million is a step backward, especially since we can expect the demands of customers to inflate the cost of health care, meaning the revenues we raise will not go as far next year as this year. Therefore, the plan’s solvency is severely limited. This PMN is called a case-specific PMN. Unlike the generic argument, it cannot be fully prepared ahead of time. Judges respond very favorably to case-specific arguments, since they demonstrate the 2NC speaker to have analyzed the plan in depth. Always look for case-specific attacks before planning generic PMNs in any round.

These examples will not be precisely relevant to this year’s resolution, but the principles behind creating them remain the same.

 

What are the categories of PMN arguments?

It is very difficult to anticipate all possible Affirmative plans and design unique PMNs against every possible case. However, most successful PMNs fall into about five categories. If you spend a few minutes considering whether the Affirmative plan will cause any solvency flaws in these five areas, you will probably develop a more persuasive Second Negative Constructive speech.

PLAN FLAW attacks take advantage of a mistake made by the Affirmative in writing their case. Perhaps they provided no funding, or not enough money. Perhaps they have no enforcement mechanism, and one will clearly be needed. Perhaps their plan lacks a needed administrative agency, or relies on certain tests and evaluations (IQ tests, educational achievement tests, poverty-income surveys) that are not reliable. All these errors guarantee that the wrong people will be helped, or that those in need will be ignored. The second example, above, is a plan flaw PMN, arguing that the plan provides insufficient money.

INADEQUATE TECHNOLOGY and INADEQUATE INFRASTRUCTURE. These PMNs argue that some sort of support or resources needed does not now exist, or exists in too limited quantities to be useful to the Affirmative. "Infrastructure" refers to publicly supported necessities for major projects: the availability of electricity, the conditions of roads, and modern conditions of factories can all be considered part of society’s infrastructure. The first PMN example given above is an inadequate technology PMN. Other examples from recent debate resolutions have argued that transportation difficulties made it impossible to get food to the starving people in Africa before it spoiled ; that biotechnology was not sufficiently advanced to made drug-free marijuana plants ; and that no medical treatment for Alzheimer’s disease was expected in the immediate future.

ALTERNATE CAUSALITY. This argues that the cause of the problem identified by the Affirmative’s inherency analysis is not unique — that other factors not controlled by the Affirmative plan also cause the problem, and these factors will continue to exist even if the plan is implemented. An example: The Affirmatives argue that pornography leads to sexual violence (assaults and rapes), and therefore banning pornography will reduce this problem. The Second Negative argues that three other factors have been associated with sexual violence, also: alcoholism, mental illness, and genetic factors such as duplicate X and Y chromosomes. Therefore, banning porn will not completely solve the problem. Alternate causality is often a weak approach for a couple of reasons. First, such PMNs generally only reduce the solvency partially, rather than block it absolutely. Second, the 2NC speaker often seems to be contradicting his partner. The First Negative will have argued that the problem is now being solved in the status quo; the Second Negative is arguing that the problem is by its nature insoluble. Affirmative will try to tell the judge in such a case that this contradiction means both arguments should be dropped from the round; Negatives need to remind the judge that, regardless of which position is true, either one is sufficient to defeat the Affirmative team on the basis of inherency or solvency.

CIRCUMVENTION and NONIMPLEMENTATION. These last two classes of PMN will be discussed more fully in a few paragraphs. They are mentioned here for completeness. Circumvention PMNs argue that people will avoid or try to get around the plan; Nonimplementation arguments suggest that the plan will never be adopted for political reasons.

 

Can 2NC argue that the plan is against the law?

It should be clear by now that Second Negatives will try anything. They will regularly try arguing that Congress would not pass the Affirmative plan, that the President would veto the plan, or that the plan itself is unconstitutional. For this reason, they will say, the plan cannot work.

Such arguments are not valid. The word "should" of the resolution gives the Affirmative the power of fiat, as you will recall from our discussion of case-writing back in Chapter 3. So the Affirmative is allowed to propose any laws they require, even to amending the Constitution. The fact that Congress and the President would never pass these laws is irrelevant; the Affirmative need show only that these laws should be passed, not that they would be passed. But see the next section of this chapter to find out when such challenges are valid.

It’s worth noting, however, that a law which would be unconstitutional may allow for a good disadvantage. Consider the pornography case mentioned above. Our 2NC cannot say that the plan would not be adopted because it restricts freedom of speech, and therefore the plan would never be adopted. But he can say that freedom of speech is a wonderful right, and restricting free speech for any reason is intolerable. We’ll see how disadvantages are constructed in a short while.

 

How does attitudinal inherency affect PMNs?

When the Affirmative team uses attitudes to provide the inherent barrier for their case, they are taking a grave risk. Laws, by themselves, do not change opinions. And the Affirmative fiat power cannot magically wish away the attitudes. So the Affirmative plan will be subject to the same attitudes which lurk in the status quo. This is usually expressed by saying that the Affirmative suffers a loss of fiat power when facing attitudinal inherency. Note that this loss occurs only when the Affirmative team proposes the attitudinal barriers; it’s not enough that the Negative first argues there are attitudes opposed to the Affirmative plan.

When trying to overcome their own attitudinal inherency, the Affirmatives must treat the "should" of the resolution as "would." This is an exception to the rules proposed in the last section. If lawmaker attitudes were the barrier, the Affirmative must show that some other lawmaking group is able and willing to put their plan into effect, or that some component in their plan will transform lawmaker attitudes. If apathy or resentment on the part of their clients makes status quo programs ineffective, the Affirmative must show that their reforms would not be subject to the same problems.

Here is where the last two PMN categories fit in. Circumvention PMNs argue that people will avoid the Affirmative plan. If it requires some form of volunteering, for example, people will fail to volunteer. If the plan requires obeying a law, people will sidestep the rules. Affirmative attitudinal inherency is not absolutely necessary for a circumvention attack — the Negative can show that the attitudes exist — but it strengthens the case.

Some examples: The Affirmative argues that poor people are lazy, and spend too much time getting welfare for free. Their plan requires any able-bodied poor to work before receiving money. Negative will say that this attitude will persist despite the Affirmative plan: the lazy poor will starve rather than work, or they will deliberately disable themselves, or they will forge doctor’s excuses to avoid working. In another case, the Affirmative argues that pornography exists because virtually all people want it, despite all the evidence that’s it’s bad. The Negative response in 2NC is that pornography smuggling will occur — and, because police, judges, and jurors want pornography as much as always (the attitude persists), nobody will be arrested because of illegal pornography trading. The Affirmative plan is unenforceable, and thus useless.

Nonimplementation PMNs are used when the Affirmative has identified lawmaker attitudes as their inherency. The Negative will argue that these attitudes prevent the plan from ever being adopted (or implemented). The Affirmative’s power of fiat is not enough to change the barrier of attitudes which they themselves have erected. Nonimplementation PMNs must have prior Affirmative support of attitudinal inherency; the Negative cannot raise this issue on their own.

An example: The Affirmative argues that welfare benefits are inadequate because Congress and the President are unwilling to spend money on people they regard as idle loafers. Their plan would institute a guaranteed national income to raise all citizens above the poverty level. The 2NC’s most effective attack would be a nonimplementation PMN — arguing that federal lawmakers would not adopt the program. No evidence would be needed. The Affirmative has already claimed that the lawmaking authorities are not completely rational, and that they do not have the best interests of their constituents at heart. The power of fiat is not going to change that.

Nonimplementation PMNs are the best solvency attacks possible, because they guarantee an absolute loss of solvency. The plan cannot be put into effect, so the Affirmative cannot get any of their advantage. The drawback is that too many Affirmative teams, and too many inexperienced judges, have been trained to believe that the Affirmative power of fiat is absolute. The Negative has to explain the argument very carefully in order to make sure the judge understands it.

The power of the nonimplementation PMN is so great, however, that it is worthwhile trying to build one even when the Affirmative has not specifically used attitudinal inherency. Try to reduce whatever inherency is claimed to one of attitudes; the cross-examination periods are best for this. If the Affirmative claims gap inherency, for example, ask them to explain why Congress hasn’t taken action to close this gap. A foolish Affirmative may answer that Congress thinks it would be too expensive (for instance, in the case of free health care for everyone), or that there are strong political factions opposed (in the case of gun control, for example). The First Negative would then note in his speech that the Affirmative’s real inherency is attitudinal. The Second Negative would then crush the case with a Nonimplementation PMN.

 

Is there any other way to attack solvency?

Yes. Occasionally, 2NC speakers will turn to the original 1AC solvency contentions and refute them in detail — pointing out where the evidence is weak or missing. This is done before presenting PMNs, and you should make it clear to the judge precisely what you will be doing beforehand. Refuting the solvency contention is not as strong as presenting independent PMNs, since you are reacting to Affirmative issues instead of building your own Negative structure. If you choose to use this technique, let it supplement your PMNs, not replace them. However, in tandem with original PMNs, the case-side solvency argument can be a devastating attack; this is one of the instances where the Second Negative’s addressing case-side issues (and following the 1AC case structure) is fully justified.

Of course, it works out just as well if the First Negative spends the time in the 1NC to refute the case’s solvency contentions. It is more likely, however, that the 2N will in a better position than the 1N to undertake a thorough analysis of the case arguments, given the time to concentrate on the solvency issue during the 1NC and 2AC speeches.

 

Are disadvantages important?

Remember that the question behind the fourth stock issue — the question that Affirmatives must answer "yes" — is: Does the plan produce benefits that outweigh any possible side-effects? The arguments presented by the First Negative will probably diminish the need and inherency issues, but (since most Affirmatives have the truth on their side) probably will not win those issues entirely. Second Negative’s PMNs will reduce solvency a little further, but not entirely. This leaves the Affirmatives with a net advantage. If the Negative wants to win the debate, they must try to overbalance that remaining net advantage of the Affirmative. This is done by showing that the plan is not merely useless, but bad. So disadvantages are crucial to the 2NC speech— they are often the point on which Negative wins the debate. You will want to present one or more strong disadvantage every round.

Of course, you will have to make choices. You only have 8 minutes in this speech. But, other things being equal, if you must choose between including an extra PMN or an extra disadvantage, go for the latter.

 

How do I present a disadvantage?

From now on we will use debate jargon: disadvantages are shortened to D-As or, sometimes, Disads. The structure has many close parallels to the need-inherency- solvency pattern of an Affirmative advantage.

The Affirmative plan causes [harmful event Y] to occur.

A. The Affirmative plan does [X].

B. Doing [X] leads to [Y].

C. The status quo avoids [factor Y].

D. [Event Y] is dreadfully harmful.

This example contains most of the crucial elements that go into the structure of a disadvantage. As always, we begin with a label that summarizes the argument: "My third disadvantage is that the Affirmative plan leads to disastrous inflation." The first sub-argument should be a plan link, which connects the disadvantage to the specific point in the Affirmative plan that triggers the bad results. Following the plan link will be one or more internal links: chains of cause and effect. Here, we have just one link, point B. Together, the plan and internal links act much as solvency analysis works in the Affirmative case: they show the logical consequences of the plan, as a series of logical steps which proceed one from the other.

The final main point will show the impact of the argument — the total harms that the Negative team will claim to result. This invariably requires evidence about how many people will be hurt and how deeply they will suffer. Sound familiar? The impact is the counterpart to the Affirmative’s Need analysis. In fact, when the judge decides the debate, he will be weighing the solved Need of the Affirmative against the proven impact of the Negative.

The impact claim should be supported by strong analysis showing that the harms caused by the plan are not present in the status quo; they are unique to the Affirmative plan. This, the C point, is equivalent to proving inherency in an Affirmative case. After all, if we will get a disadvantage regardless of whether the plan is adopted, the D-A is no reason to reject the resolution, just as Affirmative must prove that advantages can come only from their plan.

Negatives will sometimes argue that the impact is linear, meaning that the problem increases the more the plan functions. Some linear D-As get worse the more people that are involved, or the more money that is spent, or the longer the plan works. Even in the harm already exists in the status quo, Negatives argue, the plan intensifies or extends suffering to a unique extent.

The other way to prove uniqueness is by a threshold D-A. Such an argument claims that the Affirmative plan will be enough to push us over the brink into disaster. Usually, the Negative will claim we’re on the edge of the brink. Since the disastrous situation envisioned by the disadvantage does not currently exist, the harm caused by the plan is unique.

Just as with PMNs, disadvantages are classed as generic (if they apply to a variety of cases) or case-specific (if they apply only to a few cases, or have to be composed on the spot). Each has its advantages. You can write generic D-As in advance, while case-specific ones are harder for the Affirmatives to refute and are more likely to impress the judge.

 

Give me examples of disadvantages.

Okay. We’re back to the free medical insurance topic. The Affirmative is providing free health insurance to all Americans. The Negative proposes the following:

DA #1. The Affirmative plan causes great suffering and death.

A. The plan provides increased health care access.

B. Health care procedures are harmful.

 

1. Doctors misdiagnose ailments. *

 

2. Hospitals spread infections between patients. *

 

3. Doctors prescribe inappropriate medicines. *

 

4. Surgeons mis-operate. *

C. Medical risks increase as access increases. *

D. Danger to patients warrants rejection of the plan.

DA #2. The Affirmative plan risks political chaos and war.

A. The plan provides free health insurance.

B. The insurance industry collapses.

 

1. Private companies cannot compete with the government. *

 

2. Private companies cannot compete with free insurance. *

C. The U.S. economy collapses.

 

1. Insurance companies control the bulk of U.S. investment. *

 

2. Investment drives the American economy. *

 

3. A second Great Depression occurs as investment dries up. *

D. Economic instability leads to political instability. *

E. Political instability increases the risk of nuclear war. *

F. The harm is unique to the Affirmative plan.

 

1. The economy is now prosperous. *

 

2. There is little current risk of war. *

Again, asterisks indicate lines which need evidence. Note that the first of these disadvantages is a simple plan link that runs straight to harms. The second example has a number of internal links, each of which carries its own harms, but the ultimate impact claimed is the risk of nuclear war. Even if the Affirmative refuted that final claim soundly in their next speech (1AR), the Negative could still trim back and say that economic collapse and political instability are significant impacts to the D-A in their own right.

 

What can the Negative use as plan links for disadvantages?

Anything in the Affirmative plan is fair game. You can attack their mandates, funding, administration — even the plan spikes that were included to avoid disadvantages! Plus, you can link these to any conceivable impact for which you can find evidence. Take the Affirmative by surprise, and they won’t have an effective response to your argument. No doubt the Affirmatives in the above example were surprised to find out that health insurance leads to nuclear war…

 

Are there any plan attacks besides PMNs and D-As?

In Chapter 2, we talked about the so-called workability argument — but that is an invalid type of plan attack. As you will recall, this argument challenges the methods that the plan uses in functioning. Since it doesn’t take a firm stand to prove the plan will not function, the workability attack is not as strong as a PMN; since it doesn’t prove the plan’s functioning will have nasty side-effects, it’s not as strong as a D-A. Avoid using this attack as a Second Negative.

There is sometimes cause to present a hybrid PMA/D-A. Consider the first disadvantage given earlier in this chapter, which says that medical care hurts the patient rather than helps him. If the Affirmative had claimed as their need issue that people need improved health, this D-A not only establishes a harmful effect from the plan, but it also shows the plan does not cure the Affirmative harm. So the plan attack could be labeled a combination Plan-Meet-Need and Disadvantage attack. This is, specifically, a solvency turnaround PMN/D-A, since it argues that the net effect of the plan will be to widen harms already claimed by the Affirmative.

The dilemma PMN/D-A is the other variety of this argument. Let us assume that the health care plan was funded in a totally inadequate manner — say, a 5% tax on full-length coats made of panda fur. The Negative is able to prove that this will produce only a tiny fraction of the revenue needed (there aren’t many panda coats sold in a year). They present a PMN/DA dilemma: since the Affirmative doesn’t provide enough money, the plan may not work; but if the administrators spend money anyway, the plan will work, but at the expense of causing a disastrous increase in the federal deficit. The Affirmative’s dilemma is either a lack of solvency, or a disadvantage large enough to outweigh their advantage. The solvency turnaround PMN/D-A argues that the plan worsens the specific affirmative harms and causes a related new problem; the dilemma PMN/D-A argues that the plan will either fail to work or will cause a new problem, and forces the Affirmative to choose between these two unpleasant possibilities.

There is no formal structure for a PMN/D-A. You will have to combine the two forms as best as possible, based on the specific case before you. Most PMN/D-As are case-specific arguments, rather than generic arguments, so you will have to tailor them to the case anyway.

 

Is there an alternative strategy for the whole 2NC?

Yes. As we noted a couple of chapters ago, recent trends in debate practice have encouraged some Negative teams to originate all key issues in the First Negative Constructive. If your coach endorses that practice, then we can expect that the 2NC should never begin new arguments. Well, maybe "never" is too strong a word, but new arguments in 2NC should be very, very uncommon.

What this means is that the Negative partners must decide between themselves how to divide the issues in the round, before the 2NC rises to begin his speech. Some positions from 1NC will be extended by the Second Negative, and the remainder will be handled by the First Negative in her rebuttal.

This tactic is strategically sound. We can expect each of the Negatives to present a thorough point-by-point refutation of the Second Affirmative’s positions on the Negative issues. The strategy binds the Negative partners together into a seamless philosophical approach. And because the Second Affirmative has already given the core Affirmative response to each of the Negative claims, the Affirmatives are stuck with those responses – and only those! – during their rebuttals.

Nevertheless, I will restate my opposition to requiring all Negative positions to emerge in 1NC. Almost always, it leads to a shallow debate: 1NC presents two topicality positions and two disadvantage arguments, and those become the only issues debated the rest of the round. In many instances, obvious flaws in the Affirmative case and plan go unexplored, because the Negative is not prepared to debate Inherency or Solvency or Harm issues. A meaningful debate — as opposed to playing rhetorical and strategic games — is better served by giving the second Negative time during the constructive speeches to think about the plan, and to initiate new arguments in the Second Negative Constructive. Alas, that approach is not altogether fashionable at the current time.

 

Introduction to Policy Debate
Copyright © 1990, 1993, 1996, 2002 John R. Prager
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Permission is not granted to reproduce this document in whole or in part, in any medium.