ON THE NIGHT of his great election victory, President Reagan held out the hope that he would, in his second term, consider the needs of those groups who voted against him as well as those of his supporters. That is to be expected of one who has been elected president, and it is characteristic of this man, whose personality does not incline to revenge. But more is required, in the next four years, than benign neutrality and the unfettered working of the marketplace. Minorities in particular have special needs -- not for preferences, but for assurances that they will receive the hearing and the help that their situation requires.
It would be foolish to expect the president to propose large spending programs to help minorities. He will not increase non-defense domestic budgets, and he believes that the voters have ratified this decision. So let's concentrate on those steps that will not cost a lot of money but would build important bridges to minorities. Here are a few ideas:
* The White House should give strong support to the passage of the Grove City bill. This measure, designed to overturn a Supreme Court decision that narrowed the scope of earlier civil rights acts, was amended significantly during congressional consideration this year in order to accommodate administration concerns, but the final version of the bill was stalled on the Senate floor. Americans don't want taxpayers' money used to support institutions that discriminate. This bill makes that prohibition clear without creating new rights or requiring new appropriations. It should be passed.
* Enforcement of fair housing laws should be strengthened. Legislation to do so has been kicking around for years. The administration even has its own bill, and it's not a bad one. The president can reaffirm his commitment to this goal and help to build support for legislation on the Hill.
* Immigration reform will be back on the agenda. Some hard-line conservatives are ready to push for adoption of the employer-sanctions provisions of Simpson-Mazzoli without supporting the other half of the compromise: amnesty for some illegal aliens who have been in this country for a long time. The president should let it be known that continued administration support for reform is contingent on the acceptance of both major provisions of the bill.
* The long pulling and hauling over the Legal Services program should be dropped. It is clear, after four years, that Congress wants this work to continue. A number of restrictions have been put on the activities of Legal Services lawyers. The program can be run in a responsible way to help those of the poor who desperately need legal assistance.
* Finally, there is the matter of personnel. It would be nice if there were substantial numbers of minority Republicans able and willing to fill jobs in the Reagan administration, but in the case of blacks in particular, they may not be available. At the very least though, the president can appoint to sensitive positions men and women of ability, compassion and experience who have some feel for and sympathy toward the legitimate concerns of minorities. This is especially important in the Justice Department, where some changes are expected, and it is absolutely essential in the case of judicial appointments. More than the Supreme Court is at stake; hundreds of federal judges will be named during this term. The president's choices for these positions will be of critical importance to minorities for a generation.