How do I form a Solid Argument?

We’ll supply you with a secret weapon…the LEET acronym!

This is a format you can follow that will help structure your argument. LEET stands for Label, Explain, Example, and Tieback. ‘Label’ states what the argument is and your stance. ‘Explain’ is a logical explanation as to why this is true. ‘Example’ can be hard if you have not had time to prepare and do not have statistics on hand, however you can use general examples or link your argument to another idea. Lastly, ‘Tieback’ reiterates your argument and why it is so important.

Let’s use an example from our very own game. Say the following topic is on the table: “The two-party system in the US is detrimental to democracy”, and you are arguing in favor of this statement. We are going to use the LEET guide to structure our argument to make sure it is clear.

Label- The two-party system in the US is detrimental to democracy because it is a limiting structure.

Explain- Only having two primary parties in the United States political system creates a dichotomy, which ultimately polarizes the landscape and makes bipartisanship on important issues nearly impossible.

Example- Due to this dichotomization, there is palpable tension within the government that distracts from decisions being made with the good of the people in mind. We can see this today with the investigation of the insurrection on January 6th. The Republicans blocked the Senate’s proposal to conduct the investigation with a third-party contracted investigation committee, simply to be contrarian to the democratically dominated Senate. Now the committee comprises various senators and the investigation is being dismissed as a partisan venture.

The above is an example using a concrete real-life example. However, if you do not have such knowledge on hand, here is an example of how to use an idea as an example.

Example #2– Due to the polarization of the two-party system, American citizens feel more divided and combative. Presumptions are typically made of individuals who identify with each party, and similarly, the individuals choosing to identify within these parties sometimes feel the need to build affinity with the party by taking similar positions, as would be expected within that party. As a result, individuals are not encouraged to use critical and diverse thinking to form their own opinions. Ultimately, this affects our democracy because it creates polarized voting structures and an either/or mentality.

Tieback- The structure of a two-party system stifles a variety of thought, encourages combativeness, and further separates our nation’s values as a true democracy. Within a two-party system, the fight between the two parties will almost always out value the importance of sound, bipartisan decisions for the good of the people, regardless of which party the proposal came from. 

The beauty of debate and the LEET acronym is that this can be used in any part of your life to organize your thoughts. Do you find yourself naturally taking this course of rationality when discussing a topic with friends? Start bringing awareness to this in your daily conversations. Do you find people using these tactics, whether in order or out of order?

How can I find common ground or argue a side I do not agree with?

“People that disagree the most productively start by finding common ground, no matter how narrow it is. They identify the thing that we can all agree on and go from there,” argues three-time world debate champion, Julia Dhar. She goes on to explain that you can reach common ground, “by separating ideas from identity and being genuinely open to persuasion. Debate is a way to organize conversations about how the world is, could, and should be.”

Since debaters don’t choose sides, it is especially important to separate your identity in order to create a clear, objective, and logical argument in favor or against the topic that is on the table. The beauty of debate lies in interrogating your own assumptions and being forced to stretch your mind to understand the other side of an issue that you may feel strongly about. This shape-shifting offers you the opportunity to venture into various perspectives of an issue. Maybe at the end of the day, you will end where you started–but you can leave knowing that you turned every rock on your path towards enlightenment on an issue.

Practicing this detachment to ideas is key to finding common ground. Julia Dhar calls this “the humility of uncertainty.” Dhar explains, “the more you debate one side of the other flips a cognitive switch. The suspicion you hold about others who espoused beliefs different from yours evaporates because you can imagine yourself stepping into those shoes. As you are stepping into them, you can imagine the possibility of being wrong.” 

Think about a time in your life when you unexpectedly found common ground with someone. How did you get to that place? What conscious decisions did you make throughout the conversation that could have allowed you both to reach a common understanding?

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