On Policy Debate and Actual Politics

I drove to work today; I needed to get a few extra things done at the office. It was, surprisingly enough, a peaceful, even pleasant drive. Normally I hate driving the Beltway.

I had NPR on this morning, and I heard a story that, somehow, provoked a random thought.

I can’t imagine how policy debate today in high school and college even functions.

This is going to be painfully obscure to some, and I can’t help that. Not everything I write is meant to be understood by one and all.

The thought that occurred to me (and looking at today’s rundown of stories from Morning Edition, I have no idea which story it was that provoked the thought) was this — In today’s extremely polarized political climate in Washington, how could any policy enacted not have dire political costs?

This year’s topic, according to some websites, is this: “Resolved: the United States Federal Government should substantially increase the number of and/or substantially expand beneficiary eligibility for its visas for one or more of the following: employment-based immigrant visas, nonimmigrant temporary worker visas, family-based visas, human trafficking-based visas.”

So, an immigration topic.

We fiat this into existence. The United States has decided to alter its immigration policy to let more people into the country.

Considering how anti-immigration the Republican Party has become, how could this not have dire political repercussions?

I cannot imagine what a disad today would look like.

Five minutes ago, I didn’t know what the 2010-2011 topic was. I honestly didn’t. But I look at the text of the topic, and I think about it, and I see all sorts of neg disads — Obama uses his political capital (ha!) to pass the affirmative plan, and the result is Republican intransigence on judicial vacancies, sane deficit reduction, health care, whatever, and it leads to government shutdown, economic collapse, loss of American hegemony, Walter Russell Mead.

I always knew debate existed in its own little world, but you look at Washington today, and you think about how things actually work, and I can’t see how any affirmative team in a policy debate round would ever win.

Academic debate. Yeah, it’s not actually about debating policy. Please, don’t make me laugh.

Of course, I’m the person who judged high school debate rounds over a decade ago on the “Civ II Paradigm” — “Whoever builds me the best world or gets to Alpha Centauri first…” — so I’m probably not the right person to think about the problems of policy debate in today’s poisoned political climate.

Random, random thought.

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