One reason the presidential candidacy of former California governor Ronald Reagan has to be taken very seriously, we are told, is that Mr. Reagon has demonstrated appeal to that part of the electorate some analysts still call the "Wallace Vote."

The Wallace Vote, named after the former Alabama governor and three-time presidential candidate, is generally considered a somewhat disreputable constituency for a presidential candidate to woo, let alone to win. The Wallace Vote is composed, according tomost of the best sources, of hard hats, rednecks, law-and-order types and super-patriots. When these very same people support someone other than George Wallace or Ronald Reagan, they frequently go by different names: blue collars, trade unionists, working men and women or sometimes ethnics. Inthe first instance, the image of Archie Bunker is summoned up. In thesecond, one thinks romantically and positively of the legendary Joe Hill or the contemporary Norma Rae.

In the 1964 Indiana Democratic primary, George Wallace carried the industrial cities of Gary, East Chicago, Hammond and South Bend. Four years later in the same state, the late Robert F. Kennedy carried the industrial cities of Gary, East Chicago, Hammond and South Bend. In 1964, these voters were obviously "racist." By 1968, these same people had collectively and uniformly decided to become part of a "new coalition."

So perhaps Mr. Reagan, whom no political opponent has ever accused of racism, should not be embarrassed about his alleged appeal to the Wallace Vote. These people may, under careful scrutiny, turn out to be almost as respectable as the mortgage bankers or the securities analysts -- all of whom, come to think of it, may very well be right now applying for membership in the Wallace Vote. When inflation and interest rates provide so bleak a vision of the future, the Wallace Vote may prove to be just about everybody in what we used to call the Middle Class.