Liberals -- and especially blacks -- are consumed with gloom and despair over what a Reagan presidency will mean for their interests.
It will be months before anyone knows for sure, but it is hard to see, at this point, the justification for the gloom. Indeed, it may turn out that in a year or two, Reagan will be viewed as not really so bad -- if only because the expectations are so negative.
I've been questioning, listening to and reading some of these forecasters of doom and trying to figure out just what the peculiarly anti-black consequences of a Reagan presidency are likely to be.
For instance, I've just finished talking to a man who acknowledged that he is in a deep funk. He is afraid, he says, that Reagan will shortly begin to dismantle all the programs that have been designed to help blacks.
Like what for instance?
He thought for several seconds, then said: "Like CETA, for instance."
But as we talked, he acknowledged that even a conservative president is unlikely to shut down a program that employs the hard-core jobless without creating some alternative for putting them to work. And since the Reagan pre-disposition would be to put them to work in the private sector, that might turn out to be a plus.
"What about welfare?" he said. But Reagan's celebrated (and perhaps overrated) slashing of California's welfare rolls when he was governor of that state was accomplished by training recipients and moving them first into public and then into private sector jobs. My gloomy friend agreed.
And so it has gone in a number of conversations. Some blacks have expressed fear that Reagan would not be kindly disposed toward federal minority business programs. But those programs are the creature of another conservative president, Richard Nixon, and seem to fit with Reagan's general notion that the best thing that can be done for minorities is to move them into the economic mainstream.
None of this is to say that there is no cause for concern. Those who favor the Equal Rights Amendment or who oppose school prayers or who see busing as the solution to the educational problems of blacks have no basis for optimism in the wake of Reagan's massive victory. But these things were not at the heart of black concerns even before the election.
A Reagan presidency bids fair to put roadblocks in the way of government-funded abortion. But whether this will have the dire consequences predicted by pro-abortion liberals remains to be seen.
The clearest threat to the interests of minorities and liberals is in the judiciary. The fear is that Reagan will be inclined to appoint Rehnquist-type judges to the courts and, since the Senate has been denuded of it's liberal wing (with South Carolina's Strom Thurmond to replace Ted Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee), it will be more difficult to wage effective battle against some of the more reactionary appointments.
But even here, there may be some surprises. Nothing in Reagan's history suggests that his inclination will be to the Haynsworth-Carswell type of judges -- unless he senses a need to throw a bone or two to his most right-wing supporters.
The best guess, based on what is known of Reagan, is that his Cabinet will be chosen on the basis of experience and demonstrated competency and that it will likely include at least as many blacks -- one -- as Carter appointed. Nor is there any reason to suppose that he will place substantially fewer blacks than did Carter in important sub-Cabinet posts.
Most of the fears I have heard expressed are based on the fact that during much of our history, conservative politics has tended to mean racist politics. But for all his attempts to do so during the canpaign, Carter was unable to sell the image of Reagan as racist.
Overall, it strikes me that the predictions of disaster are based more on emotion than on a realistic assessment of what is likely to happen.
The more prudent course, it seems to me, is for blacks, other minorities and liberals to gird to fight on specific issues rather than react to a Reagan administration as evil incarnate.
And if Reagan is able to do half of what he clearly expects to do in terms of setting the U.S. economy straight, black America's unrestrained tears may turn into restrained cheers.
The advice here is: let's wait and see.