Election Night in Washington is a special ritual, of adrenaline and ennui, of dread and delight. The night celebrations can have odd echoes: In 1976, when Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi threw one of his lavish parties for the capital's glitterati, he took the campaign results with a philosophical shrug: "We have made out just as well with Democratic presidents -- Kennedy and Johnson -- as with Republican presidents." The former envoy was not available for comment Tuesday night but others were on the evening of the elephant's ecstasy. Washington scenes, Nov. 4, 1980:
The digital clock on the dashboard of Mayor Marion Barry's limousine flashes -- 8:02. The radio is on -- "NBC is predicting Reagan the winner in Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Connecticut, Mississippi, Michigan, Kansas, North and South Dakota. Carter has won Georgia . . ." m
"Jesus," says Barry. Almost matter-of-factly.
Barry arrives at WRC-TV to do local election analysis. He is told that Joe Fisher, the Democrat from Virginia's 10th district, is losing. Barry hikes his shoulders in surpirse. "Glad I'm not running," he says, smiling. "Bad year for incumbents."
8:15 p.m.: NBC's projection of Reagan as winner echoes from half a dozen TV sets in the studio. Barry sits down, adjusts his microphone and gets ready to answer the question he will hear throughout this night of hopping from television stations to city council candidate headquarters.
"Will Reagan make a difference for the District of Columbia?" asks WRC's Jim Vance.
"I'm going to do all I can to reach out to him, to acquaint him and his staff with the District . . ."
At WJLA-TV, Paul Berry askes the mayor what it all means. "Naturally we're disappointed . . ."
D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy appears in the WJLA studio. "We're in trouble," he says to Barry, then spots a reporter's notebook. "Oh -- for the record. Our jurisdiction will be more affected by a fiscal conservative . . ."
10:28 p.m.: "Turn that radio to WHUR," says Barry to plainclothes D.C. police detective Donald Brooks, who is riding in the front seat of the limo. "I've heard enough of national politics."
He stops at council member Charlene Drew Jarvis' headquarters on Georgia Avenue NW. Then he goes on to newly elected council member H. R. Crawford's headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Yellow crepe paper is draped from the ceilings.
"Down at Democratic headquarters it's gloomy, gloomy," says Crawford. "Well, we're not gloomy in Ward 7." Cheers all around. "The Republicans are gonna get back at us," says Crawford, grinning. "They'll probably make Nixon head of the FBI. No -- the CIA. Guffaws.
12:13 a.m.: Barry is talking to his wife on the phone from his car: "Any word on the Virginia race with Herb Harris? Wolf beat Fisher. Everybody's going down. Whole new scene. We've got four years of -- I don't know. Something?"
By the time he gets to council member John Wilson's party at the Mayflower, Barry finally gives in to the Reagan questions. "It will make my job 1,000 times harder," he says. "Because the District can only survive with massive federal support -- which Reagan apparently doesn't believe in."
"Peace -- and power," he says to someone on his way out.
"We ain't got power now," the reply comes back.