Edit- I forgot to mention the voting closes in 2 days so make sure you vote
The final 2021-2022 Policy Debate topic ballot is open! The five topic areas have been narrowed down to two (Russia and Water Resources). Member students and one chapter advisor per active school are eligible to vote. Voting ends 4:00 p.m. CT on January 14.
You can see the topics/vote for the 21-22 policy topic here, its down to the final 2 options
The two finalists are
Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its protection of water
resources in the United States.
Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its diplomatic engagement
with the Russian Federation regarding one or more of the following: arms control, the Arctic, cybersecurity,
If I had to guess I would say Russia will win in a landslide given the way past topic votes have gone, i.e. people like big shiny nuke war things and hate the environment. I don’t really have a strong preference for either but here are some initial thoughts on the strengths/weaknesses of each.
- This would of been a better topic under Trump. A key thing that makes topics good is they need to be a large change from the status quo, so if the topic is about regulating the environment you (perversely) want the SQ to be NOT protecting the environment. As an example of what I mean, a common disad vs environmental regulations is “business confidence”. Assuming Biden follows through on rejoining the Paris agreement a 2NR on biz con would have to try and explain why climate regulations do not hurt business confidence but water regulations do, and given the much broader/more impactful nature of climate regulations this would be a hard sell. The counterpoint to this is “things like Paris would only thump GENERIC disads, just cut a topic specific one bra”, but as we have seen the last few years people find this easier said than done. It is obviously possible that the new government won’t push environmental protections very hard because no one ever does, but given the way people like to complain about neg ground its worrying.
- The SQ might be too indefensible. I haven’t done any research on water since the “is it wet” debates of 2014, but everything I’ve seen on past topics indicates the situation is pretty bad. This means that like climate if the neg want’s to defend the status quo they have to rely on heartland institute type evidence which isn’t great- either objectively or for debate as an activity. This kind of issue, that the aff is TOO TRUE, needs to be balanced by making the aff take a dramatic action so that the negative doesn’t have to defend the SQ but can instead read a “gradualism” strategy, a CP that does “middle of the road” while the aff has to defend extreme better. Cases that deal with overfishing or pollution of certain bodies of water will be narrow and hard to beat. I’m not confident “substantially” will do anything to stop them.
- The states CP- yay let’s hear this some more…
- Better “direction wise”. It seems likely Dems will continue fixating on Russia/talking tough, so since the topic forces you to go the other way and diplomatically engage I imagine the uniqueness for disads like appeasement will be good/viable. This is good for a topic, because generally in order to beat “russia is evil” type disads you can’t read a small affirmative that doesn’t have a credible claim to change Russian behavior. What I mean is a small /meaningless engagement will have a rough time on solvency whereas a bigger change can more credibly claim to alter the fundamentals of the relationship.
- I’m not thrilled about the areas. One of my first topics debating was “change foreign policy towards russia” which had no areas and therefore was seemingly much broader than this one. There were tons of small cases, but we were able to defeat most of them on topicality “change foreign policy” which was easy to win required a larger/more fundamental change than just say helping salvage 1 sunken submarine. When topics have lots of areas judges seem to shut down the part of their brain that registers topicality arguments and say things like “just read an area disad” which is silly. So while I’m sure these areas were created with the intention of keeping the topic small they generally have the opposite effect, they keep the aff small and since there are more small affs than large ones the numbers go up. “Diplomatic engagement” is not a great mechanism term so that won’t be much help.
- There will be nuke wars… The debate community should make some kind of deal whereby we just alternate every year from a like “Nuke russia” topic to a domestic topic but with the explicit understanding that the domestic topic then can’t be engaged ridiculously, sort of like a “purge” topic the foreign policy one is where you get it all out of your system.
- Russia overlaps very much with the last 3 years of college topics which will probably severely reduce the amount of original research done.
So what would I pick?
I would pick Russia if we could expect Topicality to be a thing, but since it isn’t I worry that the size of Russia will be too enormous/water could be more manageable. I would pick water if I thought we would actually debate water policy and not process cps and biodiversity bad, but that is probably what it will end up being. So I guess I lean slightly Russia as it’s problems will be less fatal/annoying.