At Stumbling on the Truth Cliff Asness points to the opportunities Trump missed at the first debate inBusinessman, Defend Thyself:

Much has been made of “fact checking” this election cycle. Not enough focus has been put on “idea checking.” Unfortunately for free-market conservatives and libertarians, we can’t count on the Republican nominee to articulate why progressive economic ideas are so often so wrong. There were many frustrating examples in the first debate of Donald Trump failing even to challenge Hillary Clinton’s obvious conceptual whoppers. Worse, when Trump did attempt a defense, he often cast free enterprise and business in a negative light. Trump simply can’t—or won’t, because it’s not what he truly believes—combat the falsehoods of progressivism, or honestly and skillfully defend free enterprise and business in general.

Throughout the debate, Clinton advanced numerous “four Pinocchio” economic stories. Trump repeatedly failed to call her on them, or to represent the free market, or even the business community, remotely well. Every time this type of chance is missed, more voters are lost to the falsehoods of ever-bigger government, anti-business hysteria, and class warfare. That we have a Democratic nominee who is overtly hostile to economic liberty is, sadly, not surprising. That we have a Republican nominee who is incapable or unwilling to argue for freedom and the prosperity it brings is something worse.


By being either unable or unwilling to stand up for the ideas of the Constitution or free market capitalism, Trump allowed the bad ideas of Clinton to go unanswered, giving them credence.  This inability to articulate principles and understanding has cost him the support of the thinkers on the right and in the middle, and ultimately the election.

Ideas do matter much more than the populist rhetoric and reality show theatrics.