Last week, I introduced the Bad Precedent DA. It’s a great way to take a principle-based argument and turn it into a practical impact. We’ve already seen the big picture and one way to structure this kind of DA. Now, we’ll take a look at another type of structure, how to impact this DA, and some strategy.

Link/Impact Structure

This looks much more like a traditional DA. You should use it when you’re claiming that Aff is creating a bad principle rather than violating a good one. Here’s what it might look like, using the Exclusionary Rule case example from the last post. 

Signpost/tag. “Bad precedent: rights made privileges.”

Their principle. This is the external link. By establishing the ideology you claim to be bad, you link their case to your DA.

Example: “Aff recognizes that illegally obtained evidence is undesirable–after all, they are punishing cops who submit it–but they still accept the evidence itself as legitimate. Therefore, Aff treats privacy rights and the rights of the accused not as rights, but a set of rules for cops to follow. In other words, these rights exist not to protect people and constrain governmental power, but as a set of rules for law enforcement. We see this because Aff doesn’t care if the evidence is used to convict someone so long as the officer in question gets fined.”

Their principle is bad. This is the internal link. Show why their principle is bad.

Example: “Aff is perverting the function of rights/the law. Rights exist and ought to exist to protect people by constraining government. Aff’s plan comes along and says that rights no longer exist to protect people, but to arbitrarily punish government for doing certain things.”

Impact. “Rights don’t protect people” or something like that.

Now let’s talk about how to win with these DAs.

Impacting Precedent DAs

Regardless of the type of precedent DA you’re running, you’ve proven that Aff is making a policy based on a bad principle, or in violation of a good principle. Here are the basic elements of a Bad Precedent impact:

-When Aff/the government makes a policy change, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The government is endorsing Aff’s policy—legitimizing it and the arguments made in its favor.

-If the government were to adopt Aff’s principle and apply it to other policy areas, it’d be a disaster. Bad principles breed bad policy.

-Therefore, we should not legitimize Aff’s shenanigans and set a bad precedent by passing their plan.

Of course, in-round, I recommend you spend more time focusing on how the precedent is bad than on why setting a bad precedent is bad. Most teams won’t try to argue that precedent doesn’t matter; they’ll argue that their case isn’t a bad precedent.

Notes on Strategy

Bad Precedent DAs, in my opinion, are at their best when used as a framing mechanism for other arguments. For example, the back half of a shell-and-extend 1NC might look something like this:

“DA 1: Rule of law undermined

DA2: Relations soured

DA3: US soft power eroded

As you can see, the Aff policy is really bad. It does all of these bad things. Why? Because it’s conceptually flawed—it rests on a bad principle, and this brings me to my final disadvantage:

DA4: Bad precedent.”

And then the 2N gets up and pulls the precedent DA through first, starting off by re-emphasizing the bad principle that is Aff’s fatal flaw, tying into the Neg philosophy, and then going through the rest of the 2NC with that as a framing mechanism.

The precedent DA isn’t isolated; it’s something that grants your arguments cohesion.

Now you know that pragmatism and principles in TP aren’t at odds. Take that knowledge and have fun with it. Run a principle DA. Yell about justice. You’ll learn something, and you might just win a few rounds.

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