The view from the Republican , Democratic and independent parties last night :
Teeny-tiny itty-bitty smiles! A whole ballroom full of them! Ten thousand Republicans were invited, and it seemed like all of them showed up last night at the Washington Hilton victory party to make it the small-smile, told-ya-so, better-late-than-never capital of the world.
"I predicted it in the last three days," said George S. Knight, an Alexandria lawyer and Reagan voter in plaid pants and closely matching plaid necktie. "It's the greatest victory for the people that has every been."
A lawyer named Doug Sparks sidled past flashing a green Carter/Mondale poster as it were a feelthy postcard for sale.
"I voted for him, but I wanted to have a good time tonight," said Sparks.
He turned and pointed to a couple resurrecting a natty jitterbug, the man dressed in pin-strip suit, the woman in Shetland sweater and flannel skirt. The music was "In the Mood," the old Glenn Miller standard rendered by Lionel Hampton and Orchestra.
"We're going back to the Swing Era,m," said Sparks.
Small smiles all around.
A stageload of GOP biggies including Republican National Committee chairman William Brock, Pennsylvania Sen. John Heinz, Michigan Rep.Guy Vander Jagt, Virginia Gov. John Dalton and Republican veterans Melvin Laird and Elliot Richardson attempted to exceed the small-smile syndrome.
Shouted Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker, whose own candidacy seemed lost in the mists of the pre-convention past, "This is the biggest most historic political event of this century."
But hyperbole wasn't necessary. the facts of this overwhelming victory needed no exaggeration.
"I'm exonerated, I'm exonerated," said a government accountant who wouldn't give his name but was happy to recall that the first vote he ever cast was for Barry Goldwater in 1964.
"I voted for Carter," said Luanne Raznick, a student from Santa Barbara, Calif. "But my dad's a builder and a Republican. He said I couldn't go back to school next year if I didn't come to this party."
The style was Republican all the way. No gimme-five handshakes, no encounter hugs, no glitterati kissy-face. Showing excitement meant waving open hands at the big TV screens detailing the landslide. Some tried waving closed fists but didn't seem comfortable with them. Besides the official go-to-hell plaid pants, the major emblem of celebration was a baseball cap surmounted by an elephant with trunk bent back, in trumpeting of triumph, no doubt, but looking strangely like a unicorn who'd run into a brick wall.
Sporting a Corsican flag was Jean Graziani, who shouted, "We got it made! You got it made, too!When I came to this country 36 years ago, I find big, beautiful and free. I'm fighting to keep it. That's it!"
Washington clearly will take the victory in the stride it's perfected ever since the first presidential election night.
Said M.C. Brien, who works for Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.): "I heard this would be a fun party. The hors d'oevres are free here. I heard that the Democrats were charging."
Apprised of the presence of this Democratic interloper, a Republican congressional employe snoted: "Democrats -- they'll do anything for a handout."
By 11 o'clock, when the landslide was for sure, a new question arose. "It's a landslide, but is it a mandtate?" asked Howard Vine, a lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers.
Down by the ballroom doors, the crowd crushed in, the crowd crushed out. The only space to be found was around middle-aged men, at least three of whom had collapsed. William Brock was orating about a "victory that will last a lifetime." The crowd sang "God Bless America." Then the band socked into the ultimate common denominator of American party music, "When the Saints Go Marching in." A man in a pin-strip three-piece suit and a Jimmy Carter mask posed for pictures. A woman holding a beer bottle bent her knees, took a deep breath, and bellowed "YEAH!"
It was all over but the shouting, and that had scarcely begun.