Republican or Democrat — surnamed Milander, Martínez or now, Trump — Hialeah has always loved strongmen.
Mayor Henry Milander, in charge for three decades and the subject of many grand jury probes, made millions exploiting zoning changes on lands he bought and sold. He stayed in power fixing potholes and traffic tickets and died in office.
First elected mayor in 1981, Raúl L. Martínez was re-elected eight times and served 24 years despite a 1990 indictment on charges of extortion and racketeering and a messy, long-running prosecution that yielded an overturned conviction, a one-count acquittal and a deadlocked jury, followed by a Justice Department investigation of his prosecutor for political motivations.
So ex-president Donald Trump has chosen well.
Wednesday night, Trump, four times indicted and many times dishonored — and hellbent on exploiting the U.S. presidency another term — will speak at Milander Park’s Ted Hendricks Stadium, where the Hialeah High T-Breds play football.
What a rally it will be, historic even, another line on Hialeah’s storied resume of the corrupt leaving an imprint with the support of generations of voters who have one thing in common: They’ll always choose, over and over, the politician who delivers on their grievances, no matter the character flaws.
It’s not a problem that the chosen are power-hungry, egotistical and enrich themselves illegally. Who better to look the other way on illicit home additions than a corrupt politician?
Integrity isn’t a job requirement.
Trump should feel right at home — and while truth-meters across the land will be sounding the “pants on fire!” alarm as he rails against his political enemies — the crowd, starting with Trump-endorsed Cuban-American Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo, will adore him.
It will be a love fest from the cult of Trump — to the dismay of city residents who raise the torch for ethical government, a minority that has antipathy for Trump.
Nationally, Trumpists see no evil, big or small, and Hialeah, 95% Hispanic, is no different.
They could not care less if Trump didn’t pay the bill for supporters in Versailles as he promised after his Miami arraignment on 49 counts of unlawful possession and sharing of highly sensitive classified documents.
Nor do they care that he didn’t move the needle on behalf of the cause of freedom in Venezuela and Cuba, as he promised.
Their partisan worship doesn’t allow for dispassionate evaluation of his presidency, and they don’t mind that he’s a sore loser.
No chance DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — one of five qualifying candidates in Miami on the same day as Trump for the third GOP presidential debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, doesn’t stand a chance with Trump in the house a mere 11 miles away.
No, it didn’t do a thing for his presidential ambitions to shamelessly use Hialeah schoolchildren — some of them Black — holding up crossed-out critical race theory signs as a photo opportunity before signing his loathsome and misleading HB 7 “Individual Freedom” bill, better known as “Stop the WOKE Act.”
He signed the most racist of his culture-war bills in this multihued city of immigrants, Hialeah.
And not a peep of protest was heard in a city that in the 1980s proudly fought — and won — the battle over bilingualism with English-only supremacists.
They see no evil in DeSantis either, only “vote red.”
Both men support anti-immigrant policies that strike at the heart of what Hialeah runs on, the energy of humble, hardworking people who have left everything behind to start anew. The politicians benefit from an old bad habit: closing the door through which one has entered.
In their ideal world, Trump rules the White House — and they look the other way when he plays nice with dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, even when such support runs contrary to what they say they want for Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
But in Hialeah’s mind, this isn’t DeSantis’ time to run, and his taking on Trump is seen as back-stabbing a beloved caudillo.
In their ideal world, DeSantis runs Tallahassee forever, giving them vouchers to send their kids to private and parochial schools, where the indoctrination they may have gotten in Cuba is delivered from the other end of the spectrum.
And, in their eyes, it’s not an affront on diversity and democracy that a people’s history — American Blacks — is being whitewashed in public schools or that gays are being legislated back into the closet. And not just for the consumption of their kids, but for ours, too.
The strongman’s way, as long as it’s on their side of the political spectrum, is always a plus.
And they will applaud Donald Trump even if he’s inaugurated in handcuffs.