Cross X Series #3: Solidifying your own Case by: Samuel Hand

You have an inherent advantage when writing questions to build up your own case: you know exactly what you’re running in said case. This means that, with proper guidance, you can know exactly what to ask. While I can’t tell you which questions to write for your specific case, I can give you some principles which will hopefully make those questions much easier to formulate. Before I do, though, let me tell you what not to do.

Don’t base your case on a cross-ex answer! In other words, do not write your case and CX questions such that your opponent must answer a question a certain way for you to make your case. I hope that the reason for this is obvious: if they don’t answer as you want them to… you’re sunk. Done. Finis. #REKT.

That said, it’s tempting. I know it’s tempting because I’ve been tempted and I’ve paid the consequences. It is so incredibly exciting to think that you can masterfully trap your opponent in their own words — but that unfortunately requires their words. If they don’t say what you want them to, you’ll find yourself eating yours.

Now, with that critical admonition out of the way, what shouldyou do? (I’m glad you asked.) I have found that there are three overarching principles to consider when writing questions to build up your case.

Do get your opponent to agree to harms. This isn’t TP-specific — though stock issues mandate that TPers formally identify and solve for harms, LD has implied harms. After all, you’d hardly propose a judge vote for your argument unless it actually accomplishes something, and that “something” is usually a type of solvency. Now, your opponent obviously isn’t going to agree to solvency (that’s admitting you win *grin*), but they may well agree to the harms you allege. If your opponent agrees the harms you allege are valid, then you have a launchpad for your solvency arguments (whether formal in TP or informal/implicit in LD). If you and your opponent can just agree that the problem (harm) does in fact exist, it’ll make for a much cleaner round, focused on solutions rather than whether or not the problem even exists. Ex: “Isn’t it true that monopolies and trusts pose dangerous barriers to entry in economics?”

Do get your opponent to agree to central tenets of your case (if possible). For example, if your case has a primary argument about the role of government in economics, you could pair a question about harms with a question about government. “Isn’t it true that monopolies can pose barriers to economic entry? [“Yes”] “Isn’t it also true that trade should be fair?”[“Yes, but it must be free!”] “So then the government should be concerned with protecting trade that is free and fair?”There are a variety of directions you could then go with this in rebuttal. If you’re doing TP, this would obviously look different and not regard economics. “Isn’t a primary job of the federal government protecting national security?” [“Yes, of course”] “Isn’t it also true that terrorism poses a threat to citizens’ safety?”[“Yes”] Again, there are a variety of ways to use this in rebuttal. I can’t know what your cases are as I write this article, but hopefully I’ve provided enough context to extrapolate the concept to your specific arguments.

Do use CX to make as much as possible of your case common ground (this overlaps a bit with the first two). If you remember from the article I wrote about the purpose(s) of CX, I said that CX’s most important purpose is arguablyfinding common ground. I realize this sounds obvious, but the more of your case your opponent agrees to, the better. If you can frame the questions in the context of finding common ground, your opponent is more likely to agree to them. Not only does this help your case, but it allows you as debaters to focus on fewer points in the round. If your value is individual rights, agree on the importance of individual rights. Get your opponent to agree it’s the government’s job to protect them. Get your opponent to agree that terrorism, monopolies, and theft infringe upon people’s liberties. Your arguments should be founded on principles that are deeply true — not only does this make your case stronger, but it also makes your opponent more likely to agree to your principles. If he agrees to your principles, he unknowingly agrees to your arguments.

Cross-ex is about a lot more than just poking holes in your opponent’s case; questions designed to boost the credibility and significance of your arguments go a long way towards winning rounds. If it isn’t obvious by now, these questions are prepared in advance and serve to supplement your speeches — a strong case can stand on its own merit, but any case can be strengthened tenfold by a good cross-examination. Happy writing!