Assignment 4

Responsibilities of the Second Negative
in a Policy Debate

Tasks of Your Constructive Speech

Tasks of Your Cross-Examination

Second Negative Evaluation Form

Tasks of Your Constructive Speech

Reinforce the Negative Case

Your responsibilities are to refute the arguments of the second affirmative, to reinforce your partner's arguments against the need to adopt the proposition, and to introduce new arguments and evidence against the affirmative's plan and its benefits. As with the second affirmative, you play a supporting role but not a second fiddle. Whether your team wins or loses depends on you.

Prepare for the Affirmative's Arguments

In a sense, your entire constructive speech is refutation in that you respond to the affirmative's arguments, primarily those of the second affirmative. The first part of your speech is devoted to specific charges and questions. How do you prepare? Before the debate your partner and you can make a list of pro's and con's: arguments for and against the proposition. You then use the con's as the raw material for building your negative case. You use them also to counter the pro's during refutation and cross-examination. In other words, you know pretty well what arguments the affirmative will use, and you have ammunition on hand to shoot them down. As in a real battle, you take care not to run out of ammo.

Chart and Refute the Affirmative's Arguments

During the debate you can chart the arguments and counter arguments. All you need to begin is a large piece of paper divided into four sections for each of the speakers. Probably you should chart for your team until your turn to speak and then turn it over to your partner. As the others speak, you outline or list their arguments. When an argument is rebutted by a counter argument, you draw an arrow between the two. At a glance you know which of the affirmative's arguments have been rebutted and which have not. By the time you speak, most unanswered ones should have come from the second affirmative, but a few may have slipped by your teammate from the first affirmative. At the end of each arrow in your column, you jot down a brief reply taken either from your pro's and con's list, or improvised. Then when you stand you have much of your speech laid out for you. A word of caution: the list of unanswered arguments may be long by the time you speak. Be brief or you will leave no time to address the plan and benefits issues squarely.

Obviously, charting is a powerful tool that your team can use when you are on either side in any debate.

Extend the 'No-Need' Issue

Presumably the second affirmative refuted your partner's contentions that there is no need for change in policy. In reply you bolster the first negative's points by restating and extending them. You extend by presenting additional arguments and evidence. In short, your side wins an argument if you extend it last. As the last to give a constructive speech, you can win many arguments if you extend them and the first affirmative does not refute them in its summary/rebuttal. Although our judging is not based solely on unanswered arguments, you should win as many as possible. Obviously, you could not help but impress the judges.

Attack the Affirmative Plan

The proposition advocates change in policy; therefore, the affirmative team should have presented a plan by the time that you speak. If it has not presented a plan, then you should make a big deal of its omission. Impress upon the judges that it is useless to adopt the proposition unless the affirmative offers a well-crafted plan. That argument alone can be a fatal blow to the affirmative's case. Surprisingly, affirmative teams too often argue 'need, need, need' or 'benefits, benefits, benefits,' and neglect to present a plan. So, be on the lookout to deliver a sucker's punch.

Assuming that there is an affirmative plan, you attack its practicality. Say outright that it is impractical. Say that it will cost too much money, that it will be politically unpopular, that it will rupture relations with our trading partners, or whatever. You get the idea; if possible, shoot down their plan as impossible to carry out. You might say, for example, that "The affirmative is peddling a Robin Hood plan: take money from the wealthy school districts and give it to the poor districts. Their plan depends on the census to tell us where the poor children are. But, the census is notoriously inaccurate. A Yale University study says that it may undercount urban poor by as much as 40%, and the May 21st New York Times reported that our city is suing the federal government to force a recount. How can the affirmative's plan work if based on an inaccurate census? It cannot."

Consider a Counterplan

The affirmative is obliged to present a plan; the negative is not. However, It may be to your advantage to present a superior plan. For example, you could counter with, "Rather than rob the wealthy districts, we should teach the poorer ones how to use their resources to upgrade their schools." If you do offer a counterplan, however, you assume the burden of proof to a large degree. You must show that your plan is more practical and beneficial than the affirmative's plan.

Support Your Claims with Evidence

While presenting both the practicality issue and later the benefits issue, you present evidence to support your claims. Go lightly on the statistics. Select the most striking and make them as personal as possible. In our ancient debate during the Reagan era, this vivid evidence was used to defeat a proposition advocating his Strategic Defense Initiative: "If we implement the affirmative's star wars plan, it will cost everyone in this room, according to a 1986 Rand Institute study, $462 a year for the next twenty years. That is a total of $9,240 per person for a roof that the Institute says will leak nuclear missles. Can you think of any better way to spend your $9,240?" The overall estimated cost from the study was divided by the U.S. population to help each listener grasp the cost of the program. Also, the amount "$9,240" was displayed on a large sign.

Thus, the cost of SDI became a credible, personal number with an impeccable pedigree from the Rand Institute. Too often, debaters lose credibility with our listeners by seeming to pluck incredible numbers from midair with no pedigree. Or, they bombard their listeners with so many unmemorable numbers that they cancel each other.

Attack the Affirmative Plan's Benefits

As with the affirmative plan, you should listen for your opponents to describe benefits that would result from its implementation. If they fail to describe them explicitly, which happens often, you should point out their omission. How can the audience adopt a plan without knowing its benefits?

Just as you argue that the affirmative's plan is impractical, so you argue that its benefits are few and its liabilities many. In our debate on hospitalizing 'gravely disabled' homeless people, for example, the second negative argued effectively that putting the mentally ill into large hospitals would only recreate snake pits, cost enormous sums, and benefit no one, least of all the patients. They would benefit much more if we spend tax dollars on more secure shelters and more housing rather than reopening insane asylums.

And in our debate on legalizing euthanasia, the second negative focused on a great liability, that we cannot know who is curable or incurable, and to decide the fate of comatose patients is to play God. She recounted how she witnessed her own father's recovery after seven weeks in a coma. Rarely can we muster evidence that persuasive, but we can find personal instances that illustrate our case. In the same debate the second negative described how Helen Keller might have been victim of mercy killing. Contrary to a Disney song, you accent the negative to cast doubt as to whether the affirmative's plan is really worth the cost.

As with the impracticality of the affirmative plan, you are obliged to support with evidence your claims that its benefits will not outweigh its costs. To be safe, you should match each of your arguments with at least one piece of believable evidence from a credible source. Morever, you should cite the source when presenting the evidence.

Tasks of Your Cross-Examination

Supply "Setup" Questions

Before the debate, you prepare a list of questions based on your arguments and evidence that you want the first negative to ask your opponent just before you speak. You should read the sections on cross-examination in the other assignments for help in framing your questions. Basically, they should be short questions requiring short answers that you know exactly.

While your partner add questions to the list during the debate, your questions on the list will introduce your main arguments and evidence. They serve as "setups" in that they may catch your opponent in little traps. In response to your planted question, for example, the second affirmative may guess that half of U.S. taxpayers report capital gains on their annual tax returns. Your partner says nothing in reply, but during your speech you contradict the second affirmative and show that in 1989 only 7% of taxpayers had capital gains and the most of them had incomes of over $100,000.

Ask Brief, Prepared Questions

Conversely, when you do cross-examination, you use questions supplied by your partner. In a sense, your partner's questions become your questions; they will come from your mouth. You must take time to read through the questions before the debate to be sure that you understand them and that you feel comfortable speaking them. Nothing looks worse during cross-examination than for you to stumble over "your" questions. If they are too long, then break each into several short questions. If their wording is awkward, then rephrase them in your own words.

Add Brief, Impromptu Questions

You can also add questions to your list during the constructive speech and even on your feet while you examine the first affirmative. You use these impromptu questions to clarify arguments or evidence brought up in the speech. You can use them also to emphasize arguments or evidence that will actually help your side later. However, be extremely careful when you toss out unplanned questions.

When you do not have time to scrutinize your questions, you can easily toss to your opponent a fat, juicy one that your opponent can use as a platform for building their case more. You deny them that opportunity by making your impromptu questions also brief, and that require brief answers that you know. They should also lead your opponent on a leash to say what you want said.