Reagan's bid to blacks
It would be politically healthy for black Americans to become, in the phrase of Jesse Jackson, a ''two-party people.'' Then, according to the black leader, ''no matter who's in the White House, black people will not be left outdoors.''
As it is, most black people in recent years have been taken for granted by the Democrats. And they have been left outdoors during the present Republican administration, to judge by several reports from civil rights groups.
Now President Reagan is laying out the welcome mat. This week he denied charges that civil rights enforcement is not as vigorous as in the past. He promised economic support such as increased federal procurement from minority companies. By following through in the spirit of legal and economic justice he can help turn his party's off-again-on-again outreach to minorities into the necessary sustained appeal.
The Tidewater Conference of Republicans last spring offered one direction in its resolution to design and implement programs ''to fully integrate'' black Americans into the mainstream of the private economy. This would require an administration that eschews affirmative action to find effective and persuasive alternatives in order to ensure fair employment and business opportunity. It would require an administration that eschews court-ordered busing to find effective alternatives for school desegregation. For a key to bringing future minority generations into the mainstream is providing educational opportunity without discrimination. This means access to higher education as well, another challenge for an administration committed to reducing federal education aid.
As for the enforcement of civil rights laws, Mr. Reagan cites many examples of unsung Justice Department efforts. And these should not be minimized. In an instance of happy timing, the reports of his speech to the National Black Republican Council this week came on the same day as those of an unusual initiative by the Justice Department. It asked a court to block a Chicago redistricting plan which the department found diluting minority votes. More steps like this could offset instances in which the administration has pulled back from the previous administration's civil rightsstance.
But such steps are insufficient to convince many black Americans that they are not being left outdoors by a Republican White House. A certainty of presidential leadership and sensitivity has to be conveyed.
''This is a compassionate President,'' said the head of the black Republicans even before Mr. Reagan spoke to confirm his concern for minorities and the poor. The President can act on his compassion now to dispel earlier impressions of being insensitive and out of touch. These stemmed from the effort to allow tax exemptions to private schools that discriminate, for example, and indeed from the expression of presidential surprise that school segregation was still much of a problem.Then there was the presidential preference for voting rights legislation weaker than the bill that finally won overwhelming bipartisan support.
Mr. Reagan has views on how to help the disadvantaged that are different from the Great Society programs he castigates. It is differences on means toward American ideals that make for the two-party system. They are part of the democratic debate that can lead to improved means for achieving the ideals. The process could become even more productive with black Americans convinced they have a two-party future.