I noticed a long time ago that electrostatic attraction and repulsion seem fundamentally different from the dissipation of a charge in the form of a bolt, but I dropped the work (I have too much going on). Specifically, when you have a surplus of charges in one system, and a deficiency in the other, you get the normal acceleration of both systems (e.g., a balloon rubbed on someone’s hair will cause their hair to stand up towards the balloon).
Now consider for contrast, a bolt dissipating from a cloud. This is definitely due to the accumulation of a large amount of charge in the cloud. But if it were an explosion, you would have dissipating charges moving in all directions, which is exactly what you get from a kinetic explosion (e.g., a bomb blowing inside a container). Instead, what you see is a macroscopically contiguous system that we know is made of charges.
There are two obvious problems with this, the first is that explosions should cause dissipations that increase entropy, the second is that charges should be repelling each other, not following the same path. This suggests the possibility that a bolt is a fundamentally different state of a set of electrons, something along the lines of a macroscopic wave. This would solve both problems, since it would travel along a single path because it is a single system, and wouldn’t repel itself, because it’s one gigantic charge. Intuitively, it’s like a tau particle, in that it’s a massive single charge, that is obviously not stable.
There’s also the question as to why this would happen, and one simple explanation is that you have electrons leaving one configuration, and entering another. In contrast, the current in a wire is a set of electrons all traveling through what is effectively a single orbital that extends through the wire, the “valence orbital”, that isn’t really particular to any given atom. Where you have a break in the wire, you have what is basically a lightning bolt, again consistent with the idea that when an electron moves in one configuration of charges, it behave like a free electron, i.e. a single particle that changes position. When it changes configuration, you instead have a discrete change, e.g., jumping from a cloud to the ground, or from one valence to another, and it behaves like a bolt, which is just not the same as a free electron, since it is plainly comprised of more than one electron. If I had to guess, it travels at exactly c (i.e., the speed of light), when traveling as a bolt, whereas as a free electron, it does not, and again, I think this is because it is simply not the same state of matter as a free electron. Though a “lightning bolt” is comprised of many individual components, which would be bolts in this view, jumping from one configuration to the next, its velocity could be and is in fact slower than c, for the simple reason that it travels as a free electron in any given configuration, and only as a bolt (i.e., at c) between configurations.