A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 29, 2010
Paramount Issue

A “paramount issue” is a political issue that’s more important than all others; a “paramount issue” usually involves a war or the economy. The term “paramount issue” has been cited in print since at least 1844.

A highly emotional and divisive issue (such as abortion) can be described as a “hot-button issue” (since 1970) or a “wedge issue” (since 1976). A personal financial issue can be described as a “bread-and-butter issue” (since 1892) or a “pocketbook issue” (since 1900).


The Free Dictionary
paramount issue - an issue whose settlement is more important than anything else; and issue that must be settled before anything else can be settled

Google Books
December 1844, The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, pg. 531, col. 2:
There is one broad, paramount issue, strongly drawn and universally made up all over the country, and very apt to swamp many of the partial questions which the discussions of the general controversy may introduce with more or less effect into the canvass.

4 April 1848, New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth, NH), pg. 2:
Resolved, That the political struggle through which we have just passed, in view of the critical position of the country engaged in a righteous and unavoidable foreign war, and violently assailed by traitorous foes within, was one of the most important political contests ever had in this State—the paramount issue having been whether the government should be sustained in the vigorous prosecution of the war as the only means of obtaining an early, honorable and satisfavtory peace,...

Google News Archive
29 June 1848, National Era (Washington, DC), “The Duplicity of the Old Parties,” pg. 102:
And yet, both parties hold their National Conventions, and agree respectively upon their candidates for the office of President, and then adjourn, each section of each party going home, there to labor for the party candidate, on the ground that he is sound upon this great, paramount issue.
(Slavery—ed.)

OCLC WorldCat record
Shall the people or the corporations rule? The paramount issue; Speech of James V. Coffey, chairman of San Francisco delegation 1876 and 1878, March 7, 1878 on the Railroad commission bills, twenty-second session Assembly of the Legislature of California.
Author: James V (James Vincent) 1846-1919 Coffey
Publisher: [San Francisco?, 1878?]
Edition/Format: Computer file : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Southern politics : the subversion of national authority. The paramount issue in 1880.
Publisher: Washington, D. C. : National Republican Printing House, 1880.
Edition/Format: Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Tariff reform, the paramount issue. Speeches and writings on the questions involved in the presidential contest of 1892. By William M. Springer ... With an introductory sketch of the author by Alexander J. Jones.
Author: William McKendree 1836-1903 Springer
Publisher: 1892 New York, C. L. Webster & company,
Edition/Format: Internet resource : English
Database: OAIster

OCLC WorldCat record
From silver to soldier : Bryan still sticks to figures, but changes issues : 1 to 999 instead of 16 to 1 : the Pop-Dem “paramount issue”, and the true story of the Philippines against democratic Filipino fiction : the Dem-Pop phantom imperialism : a simple arithmetic solution of Bryan’s latest folly
Author: Murat Halstead
Publisher: [S.l. : s.n., 1900?]
Edition/Format: Book : English

Google Books
Safire’s Political Dictionary
By William Safire
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
2008
Pg. 517:
paramount issue The overriding concern on the minds of voters in a campaign.

The phrase was popularized by William Jennings Bryan about “free silver,” and has had a steady use since. Michigan Governor George Romney called Vietnam the “paramount issue” of 1967 (see UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS). Paramount issue implied importance, for rational discussion, such as continuance of a long war; BURNING QUESTION is more emotional discussion from entrenched positions, as on abortion rights; gut issue is one which is not so much discussed as it is felt, as resentment about immigrant groups or fear of social change or same-sex marriage; POCKETBOOK ISSUE is the fear or inflation or recession.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, October 29, 2010 • Permalink