HAROLD WASHINGTON has been elected mayor of Chicago by a large enough margin to quash any doubts about the integrity of the result. He has won a decisive, if by no means overwhelming, victory. Now the difficult work begins. The mayor-elect will have to try to satisfy the expectations of his followers and persuade those who bitterly opposed him that he is giving heed to their legitimate interests. This is not easy, but it's been done before, in other cities, by mayors both black and white.

Some people have treated this contest as if it were the first time a black candidate with an almost entirely black constituency ran against a white candidate with an almost entirely white constituency for control of a major city's government. We think it's more likely to turn out to be the last. The trend around the country--and there is no better example than in our city of Washington--is for both black and white voters to support candidates on the basis of issue positions and priorities, regardless of race, and for black and white candidates to seek support from voters of both races. Increasingly, both blacks and whites no longer believe that their interests can be served only by officeholders of their own race. That's why the ugly racial appeals in Chicago are probably not a preview of the politics to come but a reprise of a politics that is, fortunately, not nearly so common as it used to be.

Still, there is no cause for smugness here. The Chicago campaign shows how easy it is to inflame feelings of racial hatred and distrust that still exist in the hearts of too many Americans. A few careless remarks, some ill-advised campaign strategy--and a great city is engulfed in fear and animosity. That is something that self-promoting politicians--and not just those in Chicago--might keep in mind.