MUNICH – American democracy is a complex, self-organizing system. In terms of network science, President Donald Trump is a “superhub”: the most well-connected human “node,” located in the center of the network. While Trump does not have control over the entire system – he himself is subject to its systemic forces – he has enough influence that he could cause it to fail.
Complex systems don’t fail easily. They are generally adaptive and self-correcting. When they become too skewed, circuit breakers kick in to restore balance. But if circuit breakers are disabled, the system will ultimately self-destruct.
The likelihood of such an outcome is hard to predict. But in situations of absolute uncertainty, it is advisable to assume the worst, and many indicators seem to point to a potential “hostile takeover” of liberal democracy by Trump and his cohorts.
The most effective way to destroy a complex system is, first, to manufacture chaos. Within a month of taking office, Trump’s administration has already employed shock tactics to paralyze and distract the electorate, while antagonizing allies, provoking enemies, and creating new alliances with dubious partners. He has gone so far as to create a parallel universe using “alternative facts.”