DEMOCRATS PLACE NEW FOCUS ON ECONOMIC GROWTH

The message of the week is that Democrats want economic growth above all.

This contrasts with their emphasis four years ago on the distribution of wealth, according to party chairman Ron Brown.

But the new message is the truer Democratic legacy, argued one the party's highest-ranking officials at a Monitor luncheon here, Senate majority leader George Mitchell of Maine.

"I've said hundreds, probably thousands of times that I believe the Democratic Party did well nationally when it was in fact and was perceived as the party of economic growth and of opportunity," he said.

He does not see the party undergoing the fundamental shift toward the center that some Democrats here perceive. Instead, Mr. Mitchell explained that President Reagan "simply appropriated the concept of opportunity, even though the record of the Republican Party is directly to the contrary."

Republicans are more likely to define opportunity in terms of growth. Mitchell's tends more to inclusiveness.

"Without exception, every step toward creating opportunity, reducing discrimination, breaking down barriers in this country, in this century, has been instigated by Democrats who passed legislation frequently, not always, frequently over Republican opposition," he said.

He also admitted that Democrats have been perceived, perhaps correctly, as "a party more concerned that everybody got an equal slice of the pie rather than concerned with making the pie grow."

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