what with the world soon to be awash in Republicans, attending a party thrown last night by the Americans for Democratic Action did seem to bear a certain resemblance to dropping in a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. But no, they all said, as they employed a metaphor as prevalent as the plastic champagne glasses they were holding: We shall rise like the phoenix from the ashes.
Actually they were looking more like whooping cranes.
"We're not here to mourn or weep," ADA president Patsy Mink said of the party that was billed (in advance of Election Night, it must be said) as a roast of the ADA's 67-year-old national director, Leon Shull. And if the jokes at times shared the lame-duck status of some of the fallen, still an effort was made to light the lanterns for elections still to come and to find comfort in philosophy.
But greetings between the guests still hearkened back to last week's election, a conversational toothache that it was impossible to ignore. "Let's not talk about the election," said Mink to Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz.). "If we do, we won't be able to smile."
But, of course, they did.
". . . I must go talk to Brademas to see how he's taking it.There's so many of them I haven't seen yet . . ."
"Of course, someone else will come along, but who? And when? . . ."
". . . I've got a friend who just got a Fulbright to Australia, I'm jealous as hell . . ."
"At least we got the Alaska bill through . . ."
Udall was the first to take to the podium to roast Shull, if the gentle heat applied to the ever-optimistic director could be said to have amounted to anything more than a stir-fry. "I want to welcome all of you," Udall said. "Taxpayers, unemployed Democrats, members of the oral majority and victims of the Reagan juggernaut." Acknowledging the applause his own reelection received, he quoted Winston Churchill -- "Nothing is quite as exhilarating as to be shot at and missed."
Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who won the seat vacated by Robert F. Drinan, asked a rhetorical question -- "How does a hypochondriac feel when he's told he does have cancer?" -- and took a swipe at the Moral Majority types who had worked so hard to defeat him "I have never met people who spent more time denouncing others for being obsessed with sex," he said.
Frank also advised Shull to exercise caution in the opening of any presents he might receive. "Look at the things you've given people," he said. "You gave Kennedy the idea to run for president . . . You gave Culver and Bayh their ADA voting records . . . If I were you I'd take a metal detector to any presents I received."
There were brave smiles all around, but they faded as quickly as daylight in December and it was left to long-time civil rights leader Clarence Mitchell to try and muster the faith in the faces now pressed against the cold side of the window pane. "I don't think this is a time for fear," he said, and quoted the poet Langston Hughes. "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair," he said. "I look forward to the sharpening of our weapons and the strength of our endurance."
The party broke up early. It looked, after all, to be a long night, and the evening was still young.