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RFD for XXII Amendment Debate

whiteflame
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7/4/2015 12:53:10 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Alright, let's get into this. I'm just going to launch into the arguments.

Pro's Arguments

1/2) "We the People" and Sovereignty and the power of voting

This argument is pretty straightforward: voting is an important element of our voice in society, lacking a widely known and experienced candidate does tremendous damage to that voice. The essential idea is that, in a democratic republic such as ours, the capacity to make such decisions is an exercise of the basic principles that underpin our society, and their loss fundamentally destroys our sovereignty by eliminating that voice.

Con provides two responses.

The first is that we should be most concerned with what the people want rather than their access to the rights for the sake of access. This is coupled with an argument that people should be allowed to restrict their choices if they want to do so, an argument about what truly entails sovereignty. I think if Pro missed the mark on any of his counter-rebuttal, it was here, because he seems to misunderstand the point. What we're seeing is a clash of two worlds: should we have a world where everyone has the capacity to vote for leaders who would otherwise be off the table and thus be able to more fully exercise their right to vote, or should we have a world where the people themselves can decide that they would rather sacrifice that right for the sake of protection from potential tyrants? I think this becomes an essential question in the debate because both of these involve sovereignty, just different kinds. And it's an important question because we have to wonder what matters first and foremost. Is it the rights themselves that are paramount and must be upheld, or is there something deeper lost when citizens are unable to choose to abridge their rights for the sake of a different goal? This could, and probably should, have been a larger focus of the debate.

The responses I get from Pro are a bit tepid. I'm unclear on why preserving legal rights is paramount here. Why shouldn't the majority of people get to decide if their voting rights should be expanded? Tyranny of the majority comes up, but I'm not sure why the majority's exercise of their right to pass amendments is lesser than the minority's exercise of their right to vote for an incumbent after 2 terms. Since they're both legal rights, as Con established, there's nothing obviously distinguishing them beyond the numbers of people they affect. That puts Con in a stronger position with this argument. It doesn't help that much of Pro's opening argument focuses on utilizing "a demonstration of the desires of the people" while denying them access to one such demonstration through amending the Constitution. If we care about their desires for voting, we care about their desires in this regard as well.

The second is a point about functionality. If no one can feasibly be elected for a third term after the repeal of the 12th Amendment, then there's probably no point in its being repealed. This point is more mitigation, using Pro's own uncertainty argument against him by pointing out that we would only have a third term with someone who could win it. But I think this is beside the point. It matters later, when Pro discusses the importance of having someone with greater experience on the table for elections, but this point doesn't really have anything to do with the outcome. It focuses on the process and its importance to rights structures. I'll get to this where it belongs, but for here, it's of negligible importance.

3) The function and impact of the XXII amendment

Pro spends a lot of time here, probably more than he needs to, establishing why it is that we care about experience. It breaks down into two parts: the importance of having someone with experience taking up the job, and avoiding governmental tyranny. The latter point is basically a rehash of the previous two but with a shifted focus towards what governments should be allowed to do. However, that story isn't clear, and it is even less clear why a very popular amendment among the public is somehow governmental tyranny. I could see an argument regarding the enforcement by a government of reduced voting rights, but that even sounds wonky as I type it, and it's not something that comes through clearly in this argument. Pro kind of expands on the tyranny point late in, but it's still not clear how that tyranny is itself bad if I extricate it from the voting point made under contentions 1 and 2. Maybe it's meant to be a separate link to those harms, but then I still don't fully know what to do with it in the end.

So then we move onto the more tangible benefit of presidents with more experience. This is more clearly separated from the voting benefits point, since I'm given clear advantages to having someone who has established relationships with national and international figures of importance. That impact is still vague, mainly because I don't get any examples of this working particularly well (seriously, for all the mention FDR gets, I'm amazed that there was no discussion of how important his relations with foreign dignitaries were and how they would have been drmaatically upset by a change in leadership), but it's made clear that experience has substantial benefits. Some of the later debate includes assessments that experience isn't everything and that there are other factors that should be considered or even prized more, but that's really beside the point. We don't know that experience isn't coupled with these other factors in any given case, nor can we know that those other factors will always outweigh. So long as Pro has some chance that, in any given election, experience will be the overwhelming factor that should decide it, Pro's getting solvency here. Con might have been going for a slightly different argument about forcing voters to take a closer look at other factors beyond experience, but even that really wouldn't have done much damage to Pro's point.

What works more against Pro's contention here is the functionality argument given previously. Con uses Pro's own responses to his case to show that he's mitigating himself " so long as there's a very, very low likelihood of any president going into a third term (and, based on that analysis, it seems to be the case), there's just not much impact here. There's something, but when the impact is chiefly based on the outcome of elections allowing third term candidates is to office and I'm getting numerous points about how they're unlikely to run and unlikely to get the necessary support, I can't help but see this as minimal. Pro's winning this argument on the whole, just not getting much from it.

Con's Arguments

1) Concentration of Power and Incumbency Advantages

Con's essentially arguing that, within the executive branch, the president is the sole member with true influence and power, and that corruption through the wielding of that power creates numerous opportunities to game the system in their advantage. He provides the the example of Nixon receiving funds from AMPI and responding with a federal subsidy, and then points to an increased propensity to engage in this behavior without detection through Super PACs.

It's a good point, if a bit imperfect. It seems as though some of the links are missing here, including a link between campaign funding and advantages in elections (it might seem obvious, but that link really should have been supported somewhere), but it is at least clear that corruption can occur much more easily in a system that allows incumbents to potentially stay in office longer. The impact of that corruption is somewhat unclear, though their ability to direct policy as a result is made clear.
whiteflame
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7/4/2015 12:53:51 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Pro's responses hit some of these points, but miss the bigger picture. The checks and balances in place between branches of government do affect their ability to pass legislation, but they don't do much to dissuade presidents from using their position to garner funding. While voice and video recordings do substantially curtail certain kinds of abuse, neither of these solve for deals made quid pro quo through means like Super PACs. Perhaps these checks stop some of them, but they don't seem sufficient. And yes, while it is possible that individuals won't actually run for office a third time, I think much of Pro's case assumes that individuals will run a third time and perhaps more. Since neither side provides much reason to believe that candidates WILL run, the impact is mitigated by each side's argument that they likely won't, but that doesn't change the fact that Pro's case is apparently increasing the propensity for corruption. I'm not quite certain what the impact of that corruption is (though I would have loved to see a discussion of the power utilized through executive orders and the use of money for advertisements to support bills and presidential campaigns), but it's still a clear problem.

2) Governing Expertise

The point is essentially that we need more presidentially-trained individuals in society, something that we'd lack if the same candidate kept running and getting the president for more than 2 terms. However, while this is an intriguing argument, it's probably Con's weakest. It's unclear why presidential training is capable of providing something that other political positions (governors, mayors, senators, congressmen, etc.) can't. The argument that they won't run for further terms beyond the two stands against this, too. The harm wasn't all that clear to start. It seems to buy into Pro's argument that experience is very important, it just argues that that experience needs to be more broadly had. But the need isn't clearly established in the U.S., and the comparison to Cuba is even less certain, since I have to wonder why the comparison is apt. Con doesn't do much to explain the problem with the comparison, but with a lot more political positions spread out over such a larger country, I can't see why there would be a dearth in leadership experience that can directly apply to the presidency. What little Con's winning on this is counter-balanced by the fact that he's endorsing experience as being exceedingly important for the presidency, so neither side is really getting anything out of this.

3) Slippery Slope

Con's arguing that ethical and legal problems increase as the number of terms of a president increase. It's a correlation based on historical trends, but it doesn't get much explanation. Con points to examples from Clinton and Reagan, but doesn't provide any reasons to believe that the number of scandals increased over the course of their presidencies. Perhaps they have, but I need numbers, not just examples, to support this. It actually would have been very interesting to see FDR used as an example here " he won 4 terms, so I would expect to see an increase in each successive term. I'm not sure that holds true for him, but if not, then this point just begs the question of why the second term scandals that so many past presidents participated in are likely to not only persist but INCREASE in further terms. This also has a very vague impact, especially considering the examples Con provides. Clinton's sex scandals certainly created a stir and a lot of terrible press, but the damage it actually caused is pretty negligible. Iran-Contra is much clearer in terms of harm, but this just goes to show that the resulting scandals can have an extremely broad range of outcomes. How am I to know which of these scandals is most likely? While this point is not bare assertions as Pro states, it doesn't lead to any clear impact, and I'm having a hard time putting the links together to reach what impact it has.

4) The quest for legacy

This one surprised me. I actually throught it was Con's most vulnerable point, but I'll get to that when I get down to the rebuttal. The point functions on the basis that presidents who know they will not get re-elected are looking to build a legacy. In the process, they seek to do something big, something substantial that will ensure that they're remembered well into the future for doing something good. Con provides several examples to this effect, and then briefly outlines why this changes without the amendment. Admittedly, if a president isn't considering a third term (and in many cases, they probably won't), this won't have any effect on them. But notably, this point doesn't require that presidents coming off of their second term WIN a third term in office. They just have to see the prospect of running for a third term a likely. So this point holds more likelihood than anything else on Con's off-case.

But it's a double-edged sword. I expected to see numerous arguments from Pro regarding the harms of legacy-questing, including efforts to circumvent legislative blocks, a desire to rush half-baked policy, lost interest in other issues leading to problems, the straining of international relations, etc. Any of these could have been an effective turn on this point. The search for a legacy prioritizes the president's goals, and those don't always align with the interests of the nation.

However, I don't get these responses. Pro grants that legacy-building efforts are net beneficial, even dropping the examples provided by Con. Really, Pro's only response to this is that presidents in their second term will want to build a legacy regardless, but I think that misses the point. Every president wants to build a legacy, that's true, but the desire to see some highly substantial change that they can point back to is different from the desire to have something that they'll be remembered for after they're gone. Admittedly, Con doesn't handle this response as well as he could have, only pointing to motivation and urgency as the differences. While I buy that those are differentiating factors, they're not as strong as the main one: if a president is planning to be in office for another 4 years, they're going to want to be very careful about how they spend their political will. Some will spend it anyway, but they'll usually want to be careful because they're going to want other legislation passed. If they make a big dramatic gesture such as those Con points out, then they're almost certainly spending much of if not all of their political will to manage it, otherwise they would have done it earlier without issue. Building a legacy requires taking risks with political will that they would otherwise be incredibly unlikely to take.

Still, despite some missing pieces, Con's taking much of this with him. The motivations that make a president likely to pursue a legacy increase if they can see the end of their time in office, and as such, legacy-building is more likely in Con's world. Since both sides agree that building a legacy is a good thing, and since the examples stand as potentially positive (if unexplored) impacts, this argument has some of the most solid outcomes in this debate.

5) There is no current obligation to do so

I addressed much of this on Pro's first contention, and I don't think it warrants much discussion here. Suffice it to say that this didn't stand out immediately as a reason not to do the plan, looking more defensive than anything. When a comparison was made between the rights and desires of the people and their support for the amendment, this gets most of its strength.
whiteflame
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7/4/2015 12:54:11 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Conclusion:

Truth be told, in writing this, my views of what mattered most and why have shifted a few times. I've written the words "this was the most important argument" and erased it several times as I've worked through it. I initially thought that the decision would come down to whether I should support voting rights first and foremost, or whether I should support the choice of the public to limit their capacity to vote. Issues of tyranny of the majority would have come into play, and while those arguments weren't well impacted, I couldn't ignore them either.

While the corruption point isn't a stand out for Con's case, it does still stand, and I can't ignore that this has some effect on the right to vote by skewing individual votes. That at least tempers any advantage Pro is garnering for voting rights.

But what stands out in the debate is the legacy building contention. Much as I personally find fault with it, Con doesn't pursue the arguments that could have turned this into a major advantage for his case. With minimal mitigation, I'm forced to accept not just that Pros' case would reduce the pursuit of majorly important policy, but I even get some idea of just what that effect would look like through a look back at prior legacy building. It's the most solid impact I get in the debate, not to mention one of the few things both of you agree is a genuine good. So I vote there, and thus, for Con.
kasmic
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7/4/2015 1:07:15 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Thanks for voting and especially for the feedback.
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whiteflame
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7/4/2015 3:16:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/4/2015 1:07:15 PM, kasmic wrote:
Thanks for voting and especially for the feedback.

Happy to do it.