Topicality in the 2022 NCFCA Resolution by Logan Hickman

Love it or hate it, this year’s resolution is one of the narrowest resolutions we’ve seen in a long time. Narrow resolutions make way to more topicality issues and more topicality arguments. Regardless of your position on when it is or isn’t appropriate to run topicality, it’ll likely happen a lot throughout the year, so let’s examine the topicality scene as it regards cases…

Category 1: Nothing is significant. Several cases are going to find themselves in this category. They focus so much on only doing things within the resolution, that any harms that could be presented and actually solved by the plan aren’t going to be significant in the grand scheme of things. The only other option is that the harms are a large issue, and the plan improves the situation, but only in a negligible way. Topicality won’t be run but everything else will be.

Category 2: Extra-topical mandates. Some teams attempting to avoid passing insignificant or less-solvent cases might opt for this strategy. The mandate itself both addresses the resolution and extends outside the scope of the resolution (likely affecting state-level prisoners), but the harms and advantages are all focused on the federal level. There is an argument to be made by the negative team that since the plan doesn’t fit completely within the resolution and is extra-topical that it shouldn’t be passed. However, if the 1AC is otherwise topical minus the mandate, then the affirmative team has a strong argument that the extra parts of the case don’t warrant a negative ballot, especially if a comparative advantage burden is agreed upon and the extra-topical effects aren’t disadvantages. Most plans wind up affecting policy areas outside the resolution, especially when it comes to the economy, so a plan that just so happens to affect state-level prisoners shouldn’t be completely out of the question.

A vast majority of cases this year will likely wind up falling into one of those two categories. There are ways to avoid the pitfalls of either, but start thinking now about how you will respond to each and prepare your position. 

There exists one more necessary point when discussing this year’s topicality: the debate over whether cases that affect sentencing are topical. Some people believe they are topical, some think they aren’t, but there are a handful of teams that will run these cases this year and you need to be prepared for them. Decide whether you want to argue topicality or not, and look into both sides of the issue. Even the authors of this year’s sourcebook team can’t come to a consensus on the topicality of sentencing cases, but that’s what makes debate and debate theory fun. It’s all debatable.  As you prep for and compete throughout the year, be keeping in mind the topicality issues inherent in smaller scoped resolutions such as the one we have this year.

Don‘t have a TP Club? Not sure about how to use a Source Book, run a case, or maybe you just want additional practice for this season. Our Lasting Impact! TP Club starts FRIDAY! Lasting Impact! has over 500 articles to help support you whether you are a student, parent, coach, or club. Make sure you subscribe to get the latest info!

Logan has been a part of the Lasting Impact! Sourcebook Team for the past two years. He is actively coaching Team Policy Debate for his local club, Logos in North Carolina.