Armed with precious Trumpathon media credentials, I pulled into the UCCS remote parking garage just after 1 p.m. last Friday. We media weasels were instructed to arrive before 1:30 p.m. when the media entrance would close for the 2 p.m. event.
A line of would-be attendees stretched five abreast for three-quarters of a mile from the Gallogly Events Center, a modest venue with a capacity of around 1,500. We subsequently learned the feckless Trump campaign had approved 10,000 tickets, guaranteeing 85 percent of ticket holders would be left fuming in the afternoon sun. Luckily for them, the temperature was in the 70s, not the 90s.
The media pen, a fenced-off space in the back of the room, had folding chairs and tables for the laptop crowd, plus a platform for TV cameras. Local media were crammed behind the grandees of the traveling media.
The crowd didn't need any revving up. Trumpophiles all, they were ready to rumble!
The chants began: "Build the Wall!" "Lock her Up!" Radio host Jeff Crank introduced obscure micro-celebrities who railed against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. At 1:55, Congressman Doug Lamborn drew a smattering of applause. Donald Trump was late.
Crank spotted Darryl Glenn and persuaded the Senate candidate to speak. The crowd greeted him with deafening applause, Darryl said a few words ... and Trump still didn't show. Nobody knew he had been stuck in an elevator.
The crowd, as you might expect, was overwhelmingly white and older. But its members were polite, cheerful and amiable, even to a guy wearing a media tag.
Suddenly the volume increased, the crowd rose as one, and there he was. It took The Donald a while to quiet the crowd. He began by criticizing the city fire marshal for having the audacity to enforce occupancy limits. "It's not my fault!" he said, although it clearly was.
In a rambling, disconnected monologue, he didn't once refer to Colorado Springs. He complained about Hillary, the press and Megyn Kelly, delivered a disjointed anecdote about a friend who builds plants in Mexico and noted that his daughter Ivanka and Chelsea Clinton are friends.
In tone and content, it was as if a boring, babbling old guy cornered you at the golf club bar. "Um, er, great to see you Don. Gotta go. See you around!"
Yet the chanting, anger and devotion of the Trumpophiles reminded me of the greatest propaganda movie of the 20th century.
The film's subject: a political rally in a small city. We watch as ordinary folks stream to the rally — young and old, rich and poor, male and female. No Secret Service, no bomb-sniffing dogs, no armored limos. Cheers rise as the open car passes. Did any understand that the bombastic leader promising to make Germany great again would lead it to war, destruction and death? Did the leader imagine that 11 years later he would die by his own hand, cowering in a bunker beneath the ruins of Berlin?
The film: Leni Riefenstahl's 1935 Triumph of the Will. The city: Nuremberg. The rally: The 1934 Nazi Party Congress.
Donald Trump, not an ordinary candidate, doesn't offer the slow, uncertain processes of democracy. He traffics in fear, nostalgia for an imagined past and suspicion of government at every level.
Are we dumb enough to fall under his spell? I hope not. Since 1948, when Dad took me to the D&RG station on Sierra Madre to listen to President Harry Truman on his whistle-stop tour through Colorado, I've seen or heard almost every Democratic and Republican presidential candidate.
In retrospect, they were all good men. The republic would not have been in danger if Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, John Kerry, Al Gore, John McCain or Mitt Romney had been elected.
This year, I'm not so sure. It may be, as the Gazette editorialized, that the private Trump is kinder, gentler, more engaged. It may also be that he told them what they wanted to hear — and walked out smirking.
If Trump wins Nov. 8, we'll find out. If not, Hillary should offer Ivanka (who admits to not being a member of either party) a job in the administration. Ivanka's poised, smart and who knows? In 16 years, she may be the Trump all of us could support.