What can President Reagan do to win back those working men and women who voted for him in November and now wish they hadn't? Interviews with them were all but buried in news coverage of the size of the Solidarity Day rally. But it is politically more important for the President to keep the ranks of the defectors from growing than to woo the majority of Saturday's quarter of a million marchers, the biggest protest turnout since the Vietnam era. Most were from labor, women's, civil rights, and other groups long opposed to his policies no matter what.
It is hard to imagine how Mr. Reagan could land the support of a dyed-in-the wool Democrat like AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland, for example, whose combative speech set the tone for the rally. Yet the President should be able to renew the confidence of those like the sheet metal worker who joined in the Reagan sweep last fall but now demonstrated against him, saying: "It's back to us against them. They're taking from people like us who don't have much and giving it to people who already have to much."
The latter impression, stemming from the pattern of Reagan budget and tax cuts, has been intensified by recent media attention to wealthy life styles displayed by the Reagans and some of their associates. It was hardly tactful for an administration aide to suggest that poor people today enjoyed looking at White House glamour the way people in the depression enjoyed movies about the rich and glamorous. Indeed, such glamour is not favorably regarded by some of those very hinterland conservatives who loom large in the Reagan constituency. Without putting on sackcloth, the Reagan people could reduce the image of "us against them" by less ostentatious consumption of luxuries that are denied to so many.
This could help confirm the sincerity with which we believe Mr. Reagan speaks when the argues that the economic pains he is imposing are for the good of all. Certainly a sound economy would be a bigger long-term benefit to workers disappointed in Reagan than expedients adopted only to please them -- or Wall Street -- now. It would have been hospitable for Mr. Reagan to have stayed in Washington on Solidarity Day when so many thousands come to call. But he will be forgiven if his economic prescription succeeds -- and more and more working people will come to see, as his spokesman said in his absence, that they have "a good friend in the White House."