Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia told the D.C. Democratic State Committee at its annual Kennedys-King Dinner last night that Democratic ideals should endure through changing political fashions, saying "this battle between fad and fixture . . . is not new to the 1980s. The Kennedys and King fought it and fought similar fashions in their day."
Citing efforts to cut Social Security, Wilder said, "I wonder is that the way to political progress?"
The dinner, which drew an estimated 1,100 guests to the Sheraton Washington Hotel, is the local party's principal fund-raising event and drew local elected officials and other political leaders in the city.
Martin Luther King III, son of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., reminded the gathering that the party has its roots in supporting the disadvantaged. "We begin to get comfortable," he said. "We begin to get complacent because we forget from whence we came."
D.C. City Council Chairman David A. Clarke struck a cautionary note when he told the guests that the Democratic Party's strength in numbers in the District, where it traditionally dominates local elections, can also be a weakness. There is, he said, "a tendency to become a social club."
Lynn Cutler, vice chairman of the national Democratic Party, asserted that the party "is on the way back" and is setting a goal of regaining a majority in the U.S. Senate as well as recapturing the White House.
Cutler complimented D.C. Democrats for their loyalty to the party ticket in recent elections. In a reference to the city's support for Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential race, she said, "Forty-nine states for Reagan , but there you were. God bless you all."
James M. Christian, chairman of the local party, sounded a similar note, recalling the local party's steadfast adherence to the national party line and describing it as "the conscience of the national Democratic Party."
Mayor Marion Barry, in a speech that may well be a preview to themes he is expected to focus on in his upcoming reelection effort, said he paid tribute to the party and to political unity in the city he described as "one Washington."
Wilder, the first black to serve as lieutenant governor in his state, drew enthusiastic applause from the gathering when he linked his success to the efforts of the Kennedy brothers and King.
"The ground they were laid to rest in was of such solid and secure stuff that the seeds they planted grew across the land until today, because of what they did, I could stand here," Wilder said.