For black voters, it was a referendum on Reaganomics
Does the Reagan agenda include anything of value to black Americans?
The overwhelming answer from black voters is apparently ''no.'' Nearly nine out of 10 of them told TV network pollsters checking voters' attitudes last Tuesday that they cast their ballot against Reaganomics. The New York Times-CBS Poll, the Field poll in California, and others concurred in this finding.
According to most observers, black voters followed ''the Democratic Party line.'' The basic message to the White House, according to Eddie N. Williams, president of the Joint Center for Political Studies, a Washington-based political research group, was, ''We don't like the President's policies; we see them as antipoor and antiblack.'' The center also conducted a survey of black voters in selected precincts around the nation.
But administration spokesmen aren't ready to say that the contest is lost when it comes to minority support for the President's program. They admit to a few ''fumbles,'' such as the much-publicized controversy over tax breaks for private schools that practice racial discrimination. But there are those in the administration, including some blacks, who say the Reagan game plan can still work, despite the anti-GOP sentiment evident on Tuesday.
Prominent among these is Melvin L. Bradley, a key black adviser to the President who is fast becoming Reagan's human-rights quarterback. Mr. Bradley's post is special assistant to the President on minority affairs in the White House Office of Policy Development.
Charged with polishing up Reagan's minority affairs image, he says that black people and the President ''have a lot in common - loyalty to country, abhorrence of crime, drugs, immorality, and desire for job and economic stability.''
''We as blacks must realize what we have known all along - other people, even big government with its grants, can't solve our problems for us,'' says Bradley. ''We must solve our problems ourselves. We have the necessary intelligence, resources, history, heroes, and leaders to do that job.''
Government, nevertheless, has responsibilities ''to assist us'' through law enforcement, education, and other services, he adds. And, as President Reagan himself has stressed, the government can change the economic direction of the country ''to bring more blacks into the mainstream.''
This mainstreaming concept is one that Bradley embraces, advising all young people to get an education that can help them deal with a highly technological society.
But it's a concept that is hotly disputed by others in the black and civil-rights communities. The Washington Council of Lawyers, for instance, a liberal civil-rights group, has issued a scorching critique of administration policy toward blacks.
The report charges that the Reagan administration has reversed the direction of civil rights, stalling progress in school desegregation, access to open housing, affirmative action, and rights for the handicapped. Under Reagan, it says, the Civil Rights Division of the US Justice Department did not aggressively support extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and has ''drastically'' cut the number of new lawsuits filed - only two housing discrimination suits, and few job bias suits.
By contrast, an administration report, ''Economic and Legal Equity for Black Americans,'' published under Bradley's direction, emphasizes that the President has appointed more than 130 blacks to top executive and policy making positions. It also spells out the administration's two ''major'' civil rights principles:
* The administration is ''committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans to the fullest extent of the law.''
* The ''best hope for black Americans and all Americans is an economic policy designed to foster economic growth rather than economic dependency.''
Further, answering those blacks who criticize Republican politics, Bradley reasons that black Democrats should be happy to see more active black Republicans.
''As blacks become more successful as Republicans,'' he says, ''the Democratic party can no longer afford to ignore blacks in their own ranks. Then black Democrats will receive more respect and more responsibility.''
The administration touts its 130 black political appointments as an important feat. Blacks have been chosen for decisionmaking positions ''because of their abilities, not because of an arbitrary quota,'' the White House says.