Lincoln Douglas Debate

Purpose of Lincoln Douglas Debate

Unlike the team approach in Policy Debate, Lincoln-Douglas is a one-on-one debate in which the L-D debaters present opposing viewpoints on the truth of some topic of importance. While Policy Debate focuses on specific proposals, L-D asks the broader questions of the way things ought to be, and the L-D debaters make persuasive arguments about adopting a particular set of values rather than rely on the counting of harms/benefits. Thus, L-D debate rounds explore discussions about abstract concepts, standards of behavior and competing visions of what kind of world we should strive to create.

The “Lincoln-Douglas” name derives from a series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858 over the issue of slavery. Lincoln and Douglas made many of the arguments based on values such as popular sovereignty and the morality of slavery.

Lincoln Douglas Debate Topic

The National Speech and Debate Association determines the topic in a Lincoln Douglas debate and changes the problem every two months during the school year. The statement of the resolution either explicitly asserts or strongly implies conflict between two competing courses of action. An example resolution is: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens. The NSDA used this resolution at the 2012 National Tournament.

Structure of a Lincoln Douglas Debate

The Lincoln Douglas debate round consists of six speeches and typically lasts about 38 to 42 minutes. The affirmative speaker starts the contest with a prepared statement that gives the basic tenets of the proposition. After cross-examination of the affirmative speaker, the negative speaker prepares and then gives his first speech that explains why he disagrees with the resolution and responds to the affirmative’s reasoning with his disagreements. After that, the affirmative cross-examines the negative speaker, and then the round will proceed with the affirmative having two rebuttal speeches, and the negative having one.

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