Lincoln-Douglas Debate: Overview

Lincoln-Douglas Debate, or “LD,” is a one-on-one category of debate that places a heavy emphasis on logic, values and philosophy. LD debates are based on an assigned resolution, or debate topic, which is chosen by the National Forensics League every two months.

The resolution can span almost any political, social or moral subject, but it always claims that some policy or action, like expanding social services or protecting the environment, conforms to an abstract value, like justice, morality or social welfare. Debaters try to claim that the policy does or does not conform to the value by choosing a value criterion – a specific, concrete interpretation of the value – and showing the connections between the policy and value criterion. For instance, if the resolution is “it is unjust for the government to use questionable means to collect intelligence,” the value criterion might be “respect for human worth.”

Debaters must be prepared to debate both the affirmative and the negative side of the resolution, and the sides are not assigned until the tournaments themselves. Essentially, then, an LD debate is a battle between two interpretations of an abstract value, and each debater must prove that his interpretation fulfills the value best.