Three Framework Arguments That Aren’t Worth Your Time

Space in your AC is a precious commodity. You have six
minutes to lay out the bulk of your argumentative arsenal, and prepare to
withstand a host of more or less predictable Negative strategies. Many
Affirmative debaters make the core of their strategic logic a state of near
paranoia about wonky tactics the Neg might deploy. Dense, analytic, spikey
frameworks are designed to set traps into which the unsuspecting Negative will
fall if they try to up-layer with theory or purposefully muddy the round. I’m
sympathetic to this instinct; many obnoxious Negative tactics do screw up
rounds on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I think that many of the framework
arguments Affirmatives run in response don’t have the strategic utility they
imagine. Below are three common framework arguments that I believe aren’t generally
worth your time when compared to better substantive development of a positional
advocacy.

1. Presumption

Many debaters start their case positions asking the judge to
presume Affirmative in the absence of offense, generally for a host of
theoretical reasons like Affirmatives losing more often, time skew, Neg flex,
etc. In a world where many judges think that skeptical defense against a
standard can somehow constitute a take-out of the entire case position, I guess
this scenario looks somewhat more likely than I think it really is. Similarly,
inflexible requirements for how thoroughly arguments need to be re-explained in
an extension increase the probability that a judge will decide that the round
is utterly devoid of offense. (I admit to being guilty of this type of rigidity
in the past).

Nonetheless, at the end of the day I don’t think you get
much strategic advantage from a presumption spike. Trying to wash the standards
debate by piling on dozens of blippy, non-comparative objections is a weak
strategy. Not only does it require you to essentially abandon your substantive
strategy for the round, it also requires you to make your judge so uncertain
that they disregard all offense entirely.  Similarly, pro
forma
objections to your opponent’s extensions are
unlikely to convince a judge that there is no reasonable risk of offense in the
round.

This argument just tempts you to spend time extending it as
a “backup” plan in case your real strategy doesn’t work. Not only is that
perceptually weak, but it trades off with execution of your substantive
strategy in rebuttals.  Your instinct
should not be to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. The
best affirmative debaters never win
on presumption. They win by executing a deliberate, meaningfully planned
strategy that actually engages with the substance of their opponents’
positions.

2. Prefer Affirmative
Interps

It’s also common for the AC to argue that the judge should
prefer reasonable Aff interps. This is usually justified by the idea that Neg
could always run some type of topicality argument, and if that argument wins it
kills 6 of the Aff’s 13 minutes of speech time. The basic idea is to prevent
the Neg from up-layering with theory that they are going to kick in the 2NR
anyway.

I think this argument is problematic for several reasons.
The first is that it doesn’t actually solve the problem. All topicality
objections will claim that the Aff interpretation is unreasonable, which means
that the debate on the theory flow has to play itself out regardless of this
spike. If the Neg interp is manifestly unreasonable, then you can make these
same arguments as “Err Aff on theory” in the 1AR, where they are more
persuasive and more strictly necessary. Moreover, this argument doesn’t prevent
the Neg from up-layering with other kinds of theory objections. There are many
stock theory arguments that don’t plausibly criticize any Affirmative “interp” (unless
“prefer Aff interps” means “the Aff should be allowed to do whatever it chose
to do,” which seems like a strange way to read this argument).

Second, this argument is too often used to bolster some
wonky, hidden interpretation in the AC that the Neg failed to recognize. “The
Neg conceded the spike in the third argument that he couldn’t run
counter-plans, and the spike in the fifth argument that he couldn’t run
disadvantages, so there is no risk of negative offense. Remember he also
conceded that you prefer Aff interpretations, so don’t let him challenge it
now.” Good grief, I guess the idea is that turnabout is fair play when it comes
to ridiculous theory. ACs should just have an actually reasonably
interpretation, and then they will be ahead on any silly theory objection the
Neg runs. Why give the 1NC legitimate grounds to run the theory arguments you
are so afraid of?

3. I don’t have to
defend implementation.

This argument has a long history, but I was surprised to
hear it come roaring back to life at the Glenbrooks. It is and has always been
unequivocal nonsense. Impacts come from an advocacy. It makes no sense to say that
the resolution is normatively good unless
it is implemented
. To say that the resolution is normatively good is
precisely to say that it should be “implemented.” I haven’t the foggiest idea
what it means to affirm or negate but not defend implementation.

I think when debaters say something like this, they are
really trying to make one of two arguments. First, they might be trying to say
that they don’t defend a specific
implementation. In other words, they don’t defend a plan, they affirm the “whole
resolution.” Presumptively this means that the Affirmative should defend all topical advocacies (which is usually
the opposite of what they are trying to accomplish). The response to silly
counter-warrants or DAs to obscure Aff advocacies is to say that they have
little epistemic weight because they are not representative of the resolution
in general (they are extreme or obscure examples), not that they have no link
because “the Aff doesn’t have to defend implementation.”

The second type of argument this debater might be trying to
make is that their impacts can be non-consequentialist. This is really a
standards level argument about which types of impacts are weightier than
others, not a framework argument about what the Aff has to defend and not. Even
if your impacts link to non-consequentialist standards, they still derive from
your advocacy. It may be that we should adopt the resolution because it is
required by a Kantian moral rule (for example) and not because it has good consequences.
But that just means that the implementation
of the resolution is required by the rule, not that you don’t have to defend
implementation in the first place. If implementing the resolution in fact violated a Kantian moral rule, that
would be a reason not to do it. A turn to that effect couldn’t be “no-linked”
because the Aff claims not to defend implementation.

Conclusion

The best frameworks are short and sweet: A reasonable
interpretation of the resolution to give you strong, substantive answers to
silly theory objections, followed by deep development of a substantive
advocacy. Put away the bag of tricks, it’s a crutch that’s keeping you from
debating at your very best.