Paul Greenberg

These folks are not afraid of hard work and, far from giving up on America, they're determined to make it in the Land of Opportunity. Why would Republicans, or any political party, not court such a community? Besides blind prejudice -- and an obliviousness to its own interest.

It takes only a glance at the demographic dimensions of the Democratic sweep of this year's presidential election to recognize the GOP's myopic politics when it comes to immigration. And how costly it's proven. The Republicans' appeal to fear was easily trumped by the Democrats' politics of identity -- of race, class and ethnicity. Ideas didn't have a chance up against all that, especially among Hispanic voters.

Not long ago, Karl Rove -- the architect of George W. Bush's two presidential victories -- came to Arkansas to discuss the future of his party. Speaking at Harding University, he warned that it would be "doomed," his word, if it didn't wake up and realize what a heavy price it's paying for its alienation of Hispanic voters. A price it paid, once again, in last week's elections.

To quote Mr. Rove's prophecy in full: "If we do with Latinos what we did with African-Americans, Republicans and conservatives will be doomed." He could hardly have put plain political sense any plainer. But will his party ever wake up and shake free of the grip that its mossbacks, young and old, seem to have on its good sense?

If there is a single lesson Republicans and conservatives in general should draw from last week's election returns, it is: Estudia espanol! Learn a little Spanish, acquire a working knowledge of this vibrant culture.

Republican pols should no more be afraid of acquiring a touch of Latin brio than big-city bosses of another century shied away from speaking with an Irish lilt.

The waves of American immigration change, but the adaptability of new Americans remains strong. As for the children and grandchildren of these latest newcomers, they are not likely to forget how their mamas and papas were treated -- whether they were welcomed or shunned. Those memories will become the stuff of lasting party loyalties. If the Grand Old Party can't absorb that simple lesson of American politics and history, it won't stay grand for long.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.