Extemp questions, centering the way they do on current world events, routinely involve regime change issues, with Duterte in the Philippines being one of the most recent examples. And while U.S. presidential elections are a form of regime change, nothing in my decades-long personal experience comes close to what we’re about to encounter – not even the Bush/Obama transition.
What this means in term of extemp questions is that everyone writing them for upcoming tournaments has a huge (yuuuge?) variety of topics about the upcoming political transition available to them. The question that follows from that has to do with what you, as an extemper, have to do to be ready for questions that will only come around this season.
Given our competitive season’s timetable, there are two parts to the answer. Right now, post-election but pre-inauguration, the questions will center around what we can expect from Trump and his administration. Answering that will involve watching who he appoints to what position, and deciphering what that implies for the policies we’ll see after we get to President Trump. It will also involving parsing what he has said and is saying, to see what that suggests. The questions you’ll encounter will involve an unusually wide range of possibilities, and which ones strike the fancy of which tournament director is anyone’s guess. This means, in both NX and FX, a larger research burden than usual, since this particular regime change will encompass a larger move in a different direction than we’ve encountered before. Add to that the uncertainty that inherently comes with a completely unique president-elect and possible questions multiply even more.
The second part of the answer hits us in late January, when President Trump becomes a fact and not a hypothetical. We’re likely to see a ‘first hundred days’ agenda of some sort, which will consist of what can be changed quickly, and what is most important. Those are often different things; eliminating Obamacare and altering Medicaid and Medicare may be high priority, but are they too complex to be dealt with in the first hundred days (I hope).
Those first hundred days will take us through the end of the regular competitive season, and in many cases through District and State Championship tournaments, as well as NatQuals in many areas. Nationals, though, will fall outside the hundred-day boundary.
Depending on the Trump administration’s choice of priorities, questions from the pre-inauguration period may, or may not, change much. In areas where the new administration moves quickly, the details of their actions will drive new extemp questions. Most will still be hypothetical, though – reversing, say, Obama’s executive actions will produce results, but what the actual effect is of those reversals won’t be apparent until after most competitors end their season. The hypotheticals will be more specific and less speculative than pre-inauguration, since policy details will be known by then.
Nationals will be a unique beast. By that point a number of specific actions by either President Trump or the Republican-controlled Congress will result in a new wave of questions, worded differently than earlier ones. With a five+ month gap between inauguration and Nationals, some early policy choices will have had noticeable effects, and those effects will trigger new extemp questions
So, how do you prepare for our Brave New Extemp World?
A lot of people are writing about both what to expect, and what might happen with certain actions. I file articles in multiple locations, so you can go through individual topic areas to find the articles you need to build your files. All articles related to Trump are, right now, also ending up in the Government folder. Go to Elections, and to the second November folder (1116b), for what’s been written since Trump won the election. Be warned: there are over 1700 articles in that folder right now. (When I said that a lot of people were writing about the upcoming transition, I meant it!) It’s as close to a one-stop destination as I can offer, but the size may make it a challenge. (At lest the December articles will have their own folder [soon!], but it could end up being huge, too.) Note that the Government folder also has other relevant folders – check out the Republicans and Democrats folder to get answers about how the election is changing our main political parties.
I dump everything into fairly broad categories – you’re going to need a lot of specific folders so that you can find just what you need in that small amount of time between drawing your topic and speaking before your judge. Look for articles that begin with specific names – they’re usually from noteworthy people (political pundits, college professors, or people currently or formerly employed in relevant positions), and usually provide evaluations of certain problems or decisions (as opposed to being simply informative about something that has happened).