The Hindenburg of Populism

On May 6, 1937, just after 7:00 PM local time, an airship the size of an ocean liner floated gently toward a mooring facility at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, at the end of a three-day voyage from Frankfurt, Germany. Just after the first mooring line was secured, witnesses saw light blue flames at several locations on the giant fuselage. The aircraft exploded. In approximately half a minute, LZ 129 Hindenburg was burned to a crisp. Thirty-five passengers and aircrew died, along with one ground crew worker.

A dramatic eyewitness radio account and vivid newsreel coverage quickly spread the story across the nation. Thus ended the era of lighter-than-air passenger travel.

As I write this account, witnesses are reporting light blue flames around the fuselage of President Donald Trump’s barely born administration. From the helm of his lighter-than-air political vessel, President Donald is jettisoning officials who may have knowledge of his campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin. As if to reinforce suspicion about where his loyalties lie, the commander in chief is handing out sensitive intelligence to Russian officials like party favors. The deputy attorney general, whom the presidential spin shop tried to blame for firing the FBI director, appointed a special prosecutor to look into all this. The special prosecutor happens to be a highly respected former FBI director.

Political scandals progress a bit more slowly than Zeppelin explosions. On the political conflagration time scale, the current Trump scenario feels like “boom.”

In this era of alternate realities, it is possible that President Donald, his close circle of sycophants and his Republican enablers may cling to power. But many Americans still consider Vladimir Putin to be an adversary rather than a jolly fellow totalitarian. What happens if fires that are already visible ignite public opinion? Would Republican legislators start getting burned at the stake in their home districts?

I suspect that, in their sold-out hearts, movement conservative apparatchiks like our own Rep. Greg Walden would rather hold on to their offices than go down with the Trump airship. That’s a couple of big “ifs,” but it is possible that before long we will be looking at a different political landscape. If so, what then?

This question probably requires more than a paragraph to answer, but I think it is actually rather simple. We need to recognize that Daffy Donald was right about one thing: many Americans want radical change. Now. For one thing, we must create jobs and hope in portions of our nation where millions of lives have been wrecked by globalism, technology and other historical forces. For another, we need to start investing seriously in transforming our energy economy and mitigating climate change. Fortunately, those two priorities can be connected.

To move in this direction, we need more people in more streets. Fundamental change also requires leaders who actually lead rather than shuffle deck chairs. This means a new generation of Bernie Sanders. Young Bernies, where are you?