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RFD for "22nd Amendment" Debate

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7/10/2015 3:13:02 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
In an effort to reduce the abundance of comments I've left in the past by posting my RFDs, I've started posting them as forum posts. This is an RFD for the following debate:

So, to start, a quick apology to both debaters for not submitting this RFD sooner. I intended to get it done last Thursday, but obviously that didn't happen.

Anyway, moving on to the debate itself:

This is a redo of a previous debate. I would like very much to note that this debate went significantly better than the last one. Which is not a negative on either debater or on their performance in the last debate, though there were some big problems in it, but rather a compliment to how well they both did this time 'round. They're both very talented. I was surprised at the turns this debate took. In the beginning, particularly due to structure, I had a pretty good idea who I thought was going to win as I kept reading...and then that expectation was turned on its head.

Pro opens R1 with a brief history lesson to hammer in the point of deomcracy, and to argue that the soverignty of the people is achieved through voting. He argues that "if a President is able to consistently gain the support of the people, resulting in his re-election, then the people through their sovereignty have determined the President should stay in this office."

He moves on to a discussion of the implications of the XXII amendment, arguing that it prevents the most qualified candidate from being even considered. He says "The people should have the power to determine if a politician has served enough terms as President."

Pro keeps it simple in R1, laying out the basics of his case and arguing that it's now up to Con to offer up a defense or he'll win. With nothing but Pro's side, I'm inclined to agree that he's certainly made a case, and that he's right: Con needs to respond. But of course he does--that's how these "debate" things work. Still, it's nice to see a clear and concise case laid out.

Con opens R1 by saying he'll be focusing solely on building his case. There's a risk of a tactical error, here, I think, given how Pro laid out his own case, but of course ALL strategies have risks. Con argues that repeal would cause a concentration of power, claiming that the President's role and power is unique in that it's held by a single person (in implied contrast to the other branches of government). He argues that the unique position of the President means that there's "a clear disadvantage for any capable new challengers going against an incumbent". He gives an example of this, using of Nixon's awful acts. He uses the more recent example of the rise of PACs to aruge that "with the 22nd Amendment in place we can ensure that no long-term backhanded dealings will be taking place due to the guarantee that a new President will take office in eight years."

It's an interesting argument, to be sure, but I wish he'd drawn it back to Pro's point about limiting choice. Con's got some good points here, but he needs to do the weighing against Pro's points.

I find Con's use of a Cuba example to be somewhat baffling. To be sure, we are supposed to approach these debates as much as a Tabula Rasa as possible, but...Cuba?! Still, the point he raises is interesting, as he argues via Raul Castro that there are "consequences of not having a reserve of well-trained replacements with sufficient experience and maturity to undertake the new and complex leadership responsibilities".

His III is interesting: he names it "slippery slope" and argues that "Based on the historical evidence and trend, it reasonably follows that a third-term president would likely be more arrogant and insular, leading to even worse ethical and legal problems."

His next point is that there's an ancillary benefit in term limits in the form of what he calls "legacy-questing". While an interesting point, it seems to undercut his point immediately previous. First he argued that second terms are plagued by ethical and legal problems. Then he argues that these same second terms that he wants us to see as problematic are parts of "legacy-questing". It muddles both points, in my opinion.

His final point is that there isn't an obligation to repeal the amendment. While I don't find it a super compelling point, I do think it was a valuable point to make, to remind us that the burden is on Pro to give us a compelling reason to switch, a reason for "Should".

Pro opens R2 by arguing that the President's counter-balances are the other branches of government. Seems to rather miss Con's point, which was about the concentration of power within the branch, not overall per se. He argues that the other branches checked Nixon due to Watergate. He doesn't source Watergate or explain it further, nor does he address how it relates to Con's point, regarding milk subsidies (which was not what Watergate was about, for those might not know).

Pro then argues that the incumbency advantages are negated by candidates not running. Not a strong argument in my opinion. He negates the PACs point by arguing that multiple candidates (or both sides, in terms of the two-party system) will have PACs. It again doesn't seem to address Con's actual point on the matter.

Pro argues that Con's problems rely on a lot of "ifs". But his very first "if" is the whole point of Pro's case, the second is a point that Con argued was inherent, the third isn't particularly strong anyway, and the fourth and fifth are, again, rather the major point of Pro's case. He concedes that Con's harms "might" be a problem then, but I have to say his response is uncompelling, in contrast to his confident assertion that the "supposed harm [is] higly unlikely" and "not very convincing".

Pro's response to Con's Cuba point is compelling, though, as he argues that there's plenty of room for experienced candidates to get experience. He doesn't point out the prima facie issue that under Con's status quo, the experience is of limited utility, but it still seems a legit response.

Pro claims that there's no reason to believe that there would be similar problems as the second term in the third had those candidates been able to run again. He doesn't contest that the problems existed, so I don't find his out of hand dismissal compelling. Pro argues, moving on, that presidents will want a legacy regardless of term limits. While Con actually presented some points in support of this, Pro simply asserts this to be so. On its face, I'm not sure he can assert an equality of desire.

Pro closes by arguing that the idea that the majority is against repeal is irrelevant, and that the amendment "is a violation of our natural rights and attacks the sovereignty of the people", bringing the argument back to his central point from R1 that Con hasn't really addressed yet. It's worth noting that it somewhat undercuts Pro's own point that the people should be able to choose, though. Still, I hope Con gets into the meat of Pro's objections in R3.

Con opens the next round by explaining he intends to rebut Pro's R2 primarily.
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7/10/2015 3:13:42 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
First he makes his own historical points, pointing out that Washington chose not to run again specifically because "America was different from the tyrannical monarchy". He argues that Washington set a precedent that was held through every president until FDR. I wish he'd noted that, in actuality, Grant ran for a third term, as did Roosevelt (though his first term was to take over from a different president IIRC). But Con's broader point, that no president won a third term, certainly is compelling; that's just a side note from my own opinion. He argues that after FDR broke the longstanding precedent, the majority voted to institute the amendment, which was an expression of that choice that Pro was advocating for. Still, I think there's problems with this argument...obviously, to ever change the amendment, the discussion would have to start somewhere. I think it's a good response to Pro's central thesis, but doesn't stand on its own as a reason to keep the amendment. Of course, the BoP is on Pro, and addressing that central thesis is incredibly important.

Con throws an argument similar to Pro's points regarding the "ifs" out, with in my opinion more success, claiming after an ABC list that "The reality is that we've never had a president seek a third term since the amendment passed regardless of 2nd term popularity, nor have we (the people) ever suffered a net loss by such a president being unable to do so because of the 22nd Amendment. Our sovereignty was never challenged by this amendment, nor is it being challenged now - the truth is that the majority supported the decision/made the choice to set term limits, and still, as a majority, support such limits today."

Con notes that the ability to perform properly is important, and claims that while the amendment may limit experience, it allows for thos eiwth ability to be considered. He also notes that voting is a legal, rather than natural, right.

He closes by saying "The 22nd Amendment is not in conflict with our core principles nor does it harm our society. It was the desire of the people who passed it back in 47' and still has majority support nearly 70 years later. Only by repealing something that the majority desires would we truly be risking our sovereignty and freedom of choice. As of now, neither are threatened. "

And now we get to the final round (woot!).

Pro opens by claiming that the amendment is not necessary, because most presidents won't run for a third term. Rather undercuts his own claim to benefits, in his attempt to mitigate Con's harms.

He attempts a semantic quibble that fails, in that Con was clearly saying that the amendment was there to force a return to the precedent, which existed--a means to enforce that precedent. His point that the amendment was "new" isn't super compelling given that.

Pro's next point is that "Con argues that because the majority seems to support term limits that it cannot be argued that such an amendment is a violation against "We the people(s)" sovereignty. This is a non-sequitur. A majority can in fact vote for and establish what is called the tyranny of the majority." While true, his entire point is that people should be able to elect a candidate, which requires a majority. If a majority feel a third term shouldn't even be allowed, that seems perfectly in keeping with his claim, and given that the minority definitionally can't win, his objection is the real non sequitur. Pro argues that "The XXII Amendment is the majority dictating to the minority who they may or may not vote for and is thus a violation of the minority"s rights and limits their power and ability to vote for whomever they choose." Again, this response is wholly uncompelling. Pro has to show that the majority is limited, otherwise his only case is that the minority is blocked from voting for a losing candidate--hardly compelling in terms of harms. He then concludes by responding to the ability point, and with a conclusionary summation of his case.

At this point, with Con still having to respond to the final round, I see Con as winning--which surprised me. Pro's original case was very compelling. Unfortunately, his response to Con's rebuttals didn't have the heft that would have made them stand. In some cases he seems to have missed Con's point entirely, in others he handwaves away a point that I found stronger than he did. He undercut his own arguments a couple of times, and he doesn't seem to have had an adequate response to Con's point regarding the majority's preference for the amendment; there wer a few responses that I think could have done it, such as if he'd gone into how the only way to have a discussion about change is to discuss the merits rather than who's already in favor of it, but he never touches on them, and the responses he does give just don't do it for me. So while Con could still shoot himself in the foot, with Pro's case fully over, the win for me seems to be pretty obviously headed towards Con.

Con opens his final round by noting how Pro seemed to ignore his point regarding balance within the branches. He notes that his Nixon example was not about Watergate, and notes that the Romney point doesn't really deal with an incumbent's advantage. He repeats his 3rd term problems point. He then notes how Pro seems to have undercut his own point inasmuch as he notes that experience doesn't equal a win. He goes through several more of his points doing the same thing. He closes by saying: "The only thing that would challenge our sovereignty as free voters would be to repeal an amendment that currently has majority support of the people. The people of America spoke, and through their legislators decided to return to the precedent set by Washington. The amendment never mitigated the function of elections since one of those functions is to "produce a government that is in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the electorate." Nor does experience trump every other aspect of a good president such as the ability to perform. Thus, we should not repeal the 22nd Amendment." This point's a bit rough; I don't think Pro was arguing that the amendment should be repealed in any "special" way, which would mean that it would need majority support to happen. Pro's obviously arguing that people should support that change to become the majority and change it. Still, the majority exists now, and so as a response to Pro's arguments about giving choice and voting, the fact that the majority supports it is a point in the ring.

So, in the end, my vote goes to Con. I was surprised by this, as I felt Pro really did a good job setting up his initial case. There was just some muddling in his responses. I do wish the two of them had been on more of the same page in regards to format, because Con's format lagged behind pretty far from Pro's, which made it a bit more difficult to follow. But that's a minor quibble. Overall, both sides did fantastic and I'm impressed at this rematch!

I'll be honest, I wish Con had run a few more arguments addressing the choice/democracy issue. He could have dealt with it head-on; there are criteria in order to be able to be elected, such as birth-citizenship status, that could likewise limit the "best choice", and he could have pointed that out in service of the notion that we don't look at choice alone, but that we also put limits in for what might be called out own good. Maybe an Arnold Schwartzenegger point. Early in the debate, I actually thought he wasn't going to deal with it sufficiently at all, but as he dove into his rebuttals, he did.
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