New Arguments Are Runnable in the 2NC

The 2013/14 Chicago Debate League Guidelines and Policies don’t address the question as to whether the 2NC can run (or “read”) new arguments — we usually call them “issues” — (e.g., a new topicality violation, a new disadvantage) or whether the 2NC (second negative constructive) is limited to extending arguments or issues initiated in the 1NC. The reason for this is that the CDL Guidelines and Policies are not a comprehensive policy debate manual, but rather a set of specific rules and principles pertaining to the way that the Chicago Debate League implements competitive academic debate within the confines of its organization. They are “ground rules,” if you like. What isn’t specified in the CDL Guidelines and Policies is implicitly incorporated from prevailing national norms in high school policy debate competition.

The 2NC is a constructive speech and as such has the right to make new arguments, present new issues, into the debate. This means that the 2NC can make new case attacks, or run new off-case issues, including topicality violations, disadvantages, kritiks, and even new counterplans. The 1NR, as a rebuttal speech, is limited to extending arguments and issues initiated by the 1NC.

It is true, however, that over the past 20 years or so it has been normative for the full negative position to be initiated by the 1NC and for both speeches in the negative block — the 2NC and the 1NR — to extend the issues presented in the 1NC, by answering (of course) the 2AC arguments against them. This practice is justified on two grounds. First, debate can be more educational if issues are developed in more depth, and initiating issues in the 1NC instead of the 2NC gives these issues two additional speeches of development. And second, negative teams can potentially try to over-load and overwhelm the 1AR by “sand-bagging” much or most of their strategy for the 2NC (deliberately delaying its initiation), leading to “theory” arguments from the affirmative that this practice is “unfair,” “abusive,” and “bad advocacy.”

So in the CDL the 2NC is allowed to initiate new issues, to make new arguments, though the affirmative is also well within its rights to argue against allowing the 2NC to “abuse” this right by using it to try to win the debate not through the force of its argumentation — the depth of its critical thinking and logical analysis, the authority and persuasiveness of its textual evidence — but by “out-running” or “out-spreading” the 1AR by “dumping” a whole bunch of new arguments in the 2NC.

This is the prevailing condition — the composite norm — in high school debate around the country, despite its level of ambiguity. In high school competitive academic debate, norms like these are sometimes subject to in-round discussion and dispute, to be adjudicated in the end by the judge, like other argumentation. In the Chicago Middle School Debate League, we removed by policy this disputability and the coaches have determined that the 2NC can initiate new case attacks but not new off-case issues. The open-endedness of the high school norm didn’t work for middle school debaters and coaches so we fiated its removal. Not so in the CDL.

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