Rick Sanchez: GOP and Latinos should be a perfect match. How did we let this happen?

As I watch vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine speak Spanish, I can only imagine what most smart and decent Republicans must be asking each other. As they hear him say fe/faith, todos somos Americanos/we’re all Americans and Hillary está lista/Hillary is prepared — they have to be thinking, Why not us? That’s right. Republicans would have the presidency locked up right now, if they’d chosen wisely.

Latinos are ripe for Republican leadership, but we would have settled for Republican respect.

— Rick Sanchez

They would be looking at winning as much as 35 to 45 percent of the Latino vote if they had selected one of any number of qualified candidates who appeal to conservative Latinos.

Imagine right now if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio were able to give a prime-time address and seamlessly switch to Spanish when appropriate just as Kaine did or maybe better. Instead, conservative Latinos are forced to watch as Tim Kaine schools them on diversity. What a shame.

By the way, if you ask yourself if it would really matter since most Latinos are not conservative — allow me tell you just how wrong you are. In fact, if you ask yourself how many Latinos are intrinsically conservative, my answer is one word: most. Latinos are ripe for Republican leadership, but we would have settled for Republican respect.

We attend church and abide by family values in greater numbers than most groups. We build more small businesses in greater numbers than any group. We buy homes on average in greater numbers than any group. We were less apt to default on a loan during the great recession than any group. We represent the youngest workforce and inject more tax subsidies into the U.S. economy than any group.

I could go on and on, but let me leave you with this: We fight and die in your wars in greater numbers than any group. That’s right. Go and look at the numbers from the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and you’ll find that on average there was more Hispanic-American blood spilled than any other, because Latinos signed up and served in larger numbers than any other minority group.

Wait, there’s more. According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, Latino soldiers were 21 percent more likely than any other subgroup to die on the battlefield.

Given all that, Latinos in America eager for a GOP embrace get what? Donald “effing” Trump! Really? If you asked us to describe the least likely candidate to attract Latinos to the Republican Party the answer would unequivocally be Trump. Yes, he trumps the field when it comes to offensiveness, indecency and unsuitability toward Hispanic voters.

Before Kaine spoke, former New York mayor and almost independent candidate for president, Michael Bloomberg explained the faults with Republicans and Democrats. He said, “Republicans blame immigrants for our problems and Democrats blame the private sector and they’re both wrong.”

Could Democrats have gone further with their vice presidential pick and chosen a real Latino instead of an Anglo who simply speaks Spanish? Of course they could have and should have. But you know why they didn’t? They don’t have to.

The GOP has let them off the hook by making Latinos feel offended, even unwanted. For Hispanics, it’s not a new message. They’ve heard it for more than 10 years, but usually only from the most extreme conservative voices — Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Jeff Sessions, Steve King and a handful of others in and out of talk radio and politics.

As Latinos, we never believed our Republican Party would embrace such abusive and divisive language. We thought those angry and offensive voices were outliers. Then along came Donald Trump who encompassed the worst of the worst — who seemed hell bent on kicking us in the teeth. And then we watched as millions voted for him and cheered for him as if to say "we agree."

It didn’t have to be this way. We should have been embraced. We should have been respected, or at least not insulted. Republicans and Latinos should be a perfect match. What happened? How did we let it happen?

I’m watching Tim Kaine. His Spanish is not like mine. It’s kind of rough, not exactly fluent —despite what the non-Hispanic news readers on CNN and MSNBC say. However, at least he’s trying, he’s trying to reach out — even though he may not have to.

Republicans have, after all, ceded me and all others like me to the Democrats. We have been wrapped in a pretty Puerto Rican bow and mailed to Hillary.

What a shame. As I watch Tim Kaine speaking Spanish — I think of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and even Ted Cruz and I’m left to imagine how different it could have been.