Status Quo Calls

By: Alex Mechanick, Brown University, ’15

What is calling a case “status quo”?

Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning “the state in which”, used to reference the present state of affairs – the way things are right now.  One of the only strict rules APDA has is that the government team loses the round if they run a case that is status quo.  Thus, “the United States should have jury trials in criminal cases” is an automatic loser of a case, so don’t run it!

As opposition, it is best to make the argument about the case being status quo at the top of your speech.  Ideally this would take place in the LOC, but there is no reason why the MO cannot win the round by arguing that a case is status quo.  Begin your speech with the status quo argument because it is generally clearer to a judge if all theory arguments (arguments about the debate) precede substantive arguments (arguments about the content of the debate, e.g. jury trials).  As you get more practice, you will be more comfortable with structuring your speech in different ways, and can freely ignore the advice I am giving.

To make a status quo call, begin by briefly outlining what the current state of affairs is, and make it clear that this is also what the government’s case is.  Next, give evidence as to why this is the current state of affairs.  Remember, an argument about a case being status quo is still an argument, and thus requires warranting.  In my jury trial case, for example, you might provide many examples of criminal cases from OJ Simpson to Zimmerman that have involved juries, that the 6th Amendment mandates jury trials in criminal cases and was incorporated to the states in the 14th Amendment, and/or that 12 Angry Men is a pretty famous movie for a reason.  You shouldn’t complicate or spend too much time on your warranting, but do not forget to provide necessary evidence.  Otherwise, the round can turn into mere competing assertions.

Do not forget to make all of the other arguments you would normally make in a round!  There should still be a full off-case and on-case on your flow, with the status quo call being just one off-case argument.  You can truly be sure of your victory if you not only prove that the case is status quo, but also win the round on the substance of the case (e.g. jury trials are a horrible idea – let’s have trail by combat!).  But be sure to not end your status quo call without giving brief mention of why the judge should care that a case is status quo (other than it being the rules).

Status quo calls are an integral component of fair American parliamentary debate.  In an opp-choice case, fairness is assured in much the same way “you-cut I-choose” ensures fair cake slicing: if there is a better side, the opposition can pick that side.  In a straight-up case, however, no such mechanism exists.  And in a format where the opposition must have its arguments ready in 7 minutes (or less), it would be abusive to demand that the opposition construct an entirely new position to argue for (though they are welcome to, as a counter-case).  The presumption is that all debaters are responsible for having a general idea of how things work now, such that they can offer a defense of what currently exists or call the case tight if there is no winning defense of the status quo.  In essence, status quo calls make opping easier to make up for the time crunch, ensuring that the opposition is never tasked in a straight-up case with defending something more obscure than the present state of affairs – the status quo.


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