Policy Debate | Lincoln Douglas Debate

Jeremy Johnson, Ripon College
School constraints: Ripon High School

I am a judge from Ripon College, three years out of competition. I competed in Congressional, Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas Debate on the Colorado high school circuit, and also dabbled in policy. I have competed in extemp for the past six years, and have done a few tournaments in parliamentary debate as a college competitor.

In general, my debate philosophy is:

1. Good communication--meaning not too fast of a pace, good delivery, and polite manners.
2. Clash! Talk about your opponents' arguments and pin them down.
3. Holistic, cost-benefit debate--you do not lose in my book just because you lose or drop a small, insignificant argument. Feel free to tell me why the benefits outweigh the costs and why your case supports that.
4. Deep analysis of a few issues. I don't want cases with 100 points; I just want deep cases that get to the heart of the issue. Don't run your high-speed, 100-point cases on me and expect me to be happy with it.


Policy Debate

I have, in general, a good understanding of the basics of policy debate. As such, I should be able to hold on to whatever; however, if I look overly confused, you may want to clarify.

I prefer moderate speed, but can hang on as long as you are slow on the tags. In general, I appreciate good communication, which frankly, I don’t believe comes at overly speedy rates. I like persuasive communication, but do not tolerate being told what to do (i.e. “you’re going to vote for our team”). I expect civil, polite debate.

I prefer a debate focused on a few deep, clashing issues. The “spaghetti method” does not go over with me too well (meaning, throw everything at the wall and see what sticks). Don’t run 100 points in your case and tell me you win because your opponents missed point 63. I prefer conciseness and consistency.

I don’t mind topicality arguments as long as they are reasonable. A good topicality argument should prevent an affirmative team from being abusive with the wording of the resolution. The negative would need to make the case that the interpretation is unreasonable and that it would not be used in an actual policy discussion. I would really need to see in-round abuse for topicality to win, but it can certainly be a voting issue. The resolution has to be interpreted, so if it is a game of interpretation, I want to know why yours is more reasonable or how the opponents’ is abusive.

In terms of counterplans, I still want the negative to negate the resolution, not simply the opponents’ plan. I need you to show me how the affirmative’s plan is detrimental, not simply that it could be better. If you want to run a counterplan that relies on a negation of the resolution, that’s fine. As a negative team, I feel you should try to reject the resolution.

If you want to run a kritik, I want you to provide me with a reasonable alternative; I want you to tell me why the opponents’ assumptions or actions are detrimental. Explain to me why we should not be thinking in the mindset your opponents propose, and what we should think/do instead. In general, kritiks don’t go over well with me because they’re often poorly explained; however, if you explain it well and tell me why I should be listening, I will.

As regards conditionality, what I really want is for you to start off with one position and stick with it. I don’t want you trying strategies you think might fail against a good team—I want your best arguments and I want clash, not a debate that moves all across the spectrum because one angle fails.

Negation theory is a tough subject for me. I personally believe that the affirmative has the burden of proof; however, I’d also like the negative to make their own assertions negating the resolution. If the negative simply shoots down the affirmative, yes, they will technically win, but I’d really prefer if you pulled to a reason to negate the resolution.

Debating theory is fine with me. As with anything, just be clear about why your method of argument would be better than the opponents’.

Overall, I prefer policy debate that is reasonable, clashes well, remains civil, and is grounded in good communication skills. I’d prefer a debate that starts with opposing perspectives on the resolution, clashes with the opponents’ case, and takes a well-reasoned approach to decision-making.


Lincoln-Douglas Debate

I prefer moderate speed, especially in Lincoln-Douglas, since it is an ethically-driven, not policy-driven debate. In general, I appreciate good communication, which frankly, I don’t believe comes at overly speedy rates. I like persuasive communication, but do not tolerate being told what to do (i.e. “you’re going to vote for our team”). I expect civil, polite debate.

I prefer a debate focused on a few deep, clashing issues. The “spaghetti method” does not go over with me too well (meaning, throw everything at the wall and see what sticks). Don’t run 100 points in your case and tell me you win because your opponents missed point 63. I prefer conciseness and consistency.

I believe both sides have the burden of addressing the resolution. Both sides have the burden of supplying a value, weighing the value, and evaluating the other side’s perspective. Each side must make a case for why the resolution should be upheld or negated.

A debater must win the value and criteria debates to win the round. The debater needs to tell me why their position would lead to a better society and a better world on a whole. I want you to ethically address what values can help shape a better, more vibrant society.

LD is all about values and weighing values for a better society. If you can prove to me your side does that the best, through ethical debate, you will win.