In the New York Time’s (August 12) article titled, “It’s the loyalty, stupid,” Maureen Dowds comments on Hillary Clinton’s calling President Obama a wimp just as he was preparing to order airstrikes against ISIS. She wrote:

“She said that Obama’s “failure” in Syria led to the rise of ISIS and sniped about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Saying you can’t live by slogans is rich, coming from someone whose husband’s presidency was built on “It’s the economy, stupid.”


What does "stupid" of “It’s the X (loyalty, economy, whatever), stupid.” specifically mean? Does it mean "obvious / without question"? Can I replace ‘stupid’ with ‘period’?

What are spelt out forms of these lines?

  • 1
    Stupid is here being used as a noun of direct address, actually a nominalized adjective — and not a nice one either; it is of course quite disrespectful. It’s like saying “It’s the lightning, Bubba” or “It’s the lightning, buster.” It’s a stand-in for a person’s name. When you do this with an adjective, it’s like saying “you ADJ (person)”, so “It’s the lightning, [you] stupid [person].” I’m not sure whether that’s what you are asking, so I am only leaving this as a comment.
    – tchrist
    Aug 14, 2014 at 0:31
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    @tchirist. "It's the X, stupid" means "It's the X, You stupid fella." That's what I wanted to know. Aug 14, 2014 at 0:54

3 Answers 3


The phrase:

It’s the economy, stupid.

Is using stupid as though it were the name of the person you are addressing. It’s a noun of direct address, or a vocative use. It is like saying:

It’s the economy, you stupid person.

Of course this is very disrespectful. But that is what it means.

  • 1
    Though it may not be so harsh, “It’s the economy, stupid” reminds me of the vitriolic wording I found in Jeffery Archer’s “Prodigal daughter,” in which Flolentina Kane, the first U.S. female Vice President snaps at the Secretary of State who tries to avoid the showdown with Andropov, Russian President on the invasion of Russian troops along the Pakistan boarder by saying “Ralph, if you’re going to wet your pants, can you please do it in the little boy’s room, and not the Situation Room.” Aug 14, 2014 at 4:47

It's the economy, stupid was the key theme of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign against the first president Bush. It mocked Bush, whose popularity was based on his conduct of the Gulf War, for ignoring the economic issues which Clinton sought to make central to the election.

According to Wikipedia, its origin was a sign strategist James Cargill hung in Clinton's campaign headquarters to define the campaign's core messages:

  1. Change vs. more of the same
  2. The economy, stupid
  3. Don't forget health care

Since Clinton's victory the slogan has become a template with which political commentators define the issues which dominate an election or a struggle. O'Dowd uses Bill Clinton's slogan to mock his wife's assertion that Barack Obama substitutes catchphrases for principle and to insinuate that party loyalty should be an issue here.

  • I appreciate your providing the provenance of “It’s economy, stupid.” It seems ‘stupid’ is addressed to Hillary Clinton, which is hard for me to believe in respect of both social and writing etiquette. As my primary concern was on the meaning of ‘stupid’ in this phrase, I approved tchrist’s answer. None the less your answer is very much helpful and informative. Aug 14, 2014 at 22:12

The "stupid" at the end of the slogan form "It's the X, stupid" refers to someone who does not understand the importance of the X. In the originating political campaign, "stupid" referred to the incumbent president G.H.W. Bush. According to the slogan, he did not understand that the economy was in an unsatisfactory state. In the title of Maureen Dowd's recent article, it refers to Hillary Clinton. According to Dowd, Clinton does not understand that it is poor form to turn on someone who has supported you simply because they are polling poorly.

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