Washington — It is evident that some senior Democrats in the Senate and the House are planning to give President Reagan a rough time at the sound of the bell opening the new Congress -- unless they get some wiser second thoughts.
They don't intend to give Mr. Reagan the courtesy of a political honeymoon which by long tradition is accorded to incoming presidents.
Some Democratic senators seem not to want Reagan to have his first choice for secretary of state, Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr., and are prepared to revive and relive the Watergate investigation to see if it will uncover some unworthy conduct which might block General Haig's confirmation.
I hope Reagan will not be intimidated. I hope he will stand up and fight at the first gong if the Democrats decide to set out to teach him a lesson even before he has settled into office.
It would be a mistake for the new preident, elected so overwhelmingly, to cry uncle and let his political opposition in Congress win the early skirmishes by default. My estimate of Ronald Reagan is that he will not do so. He has no intention of neglecting Congress and he has no disposition to disdain Congress, as Jimmy Carter appeared to do in the early months of his administration.
I also happen to think that ill-disposed Democratic senators and congressmen, who find it difficult to abandon the power they have exercised almost continuously since 1932, will be making a political mistake by attempting to create a barricade against the new beginning, the new direction, the new approaches which the voters so decisively directed the Republicans to undertake.
I am not questioning the sincerity of the Democratic leaders in the policies they have pursued in recent years, but the nation perceived these policies as having failed badly -- failed to reduce inflation, to cut unemployment, to strengthen the economy -- and decided it was time for a change.
The public wants Mr. Reagan to have a reasonable opportunity to try out his measures and methods as the designated instrument of a significant political revolt.
DEmocrats would do well to remember what happened to an earlier breed of Republicans. During the first two terms of the Roosevelt administration, they constituted a determined but unsuccessful opposition-for-the-sake-of-opposition and were devastated at the polls. They were denied any significant voice in running the country for the next 20 years.
When I express the hope that the Democrats will not make this mistake, I am not thinking of the welfare of the nation. It is by no means self-evident that Mr. Reagan and his conservative policies will achieve the ends which President Carter and his policies failed to achieve. But the American people are likely to insist that the new president and the greatly strengthened Republicans in Congress be given a full opportunity to prove whether they are right. They earned that opportunity. The voters gave it to them handsomely. I believe that the Democrats will be disserving the nation and disserving their party if they try to mine the highway Reagan will be treading.
Surely their chances of a political recovery will be better in the environment of a healthy America than under a dissatisfied and depressed America.
The federal government has not been doing its work well for nearly a decade. It has shown itself unable to transact the public business efficiently and on time for too lomg. Government itself has become suspect by many Americans.
It is time to make it work better, and one need is to lay aside petty partisanship throughout the dangerous decade through which we are now living.
Mr. Reagan shows every intention of dealing more cooperatively with Congress and with less confrontation than any recent president has. This mood will need to be reciprocated if the government is to do it's job. It can't afford to do less.