What if the "populist wave" is just political fragmentation?

But what’s striking is how such sweeping conclusions are being drawn from such close votes. Had 80,000 Americans cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump, had a small percentage of Austrian, British, and Dutch voters changed their minds at polling stations, we might be talking today about the far right’s conquest of Austria and the Netherlands, and its retreat from the U.K. and the U.S., rather than the other way around…

In a 2013 paper, Robin Best, a political scientist at Binghamton University, noted that the number of political parties receiving votes in elections had increased since the 1950s in nearly all the 18 Western parliamentary democracies she examined, and that in most cases the number of parties with seats in each country’s legislature had also grown (one exception was France, which has a semi-presidential political system). These trends typically began in the 1970s and 1980s and gained strength in the 1990s and 2000s, accelerated most recently by developments such as economic crises and terrorist attacks.

“Some of this has just been the result of social change,” Best told me. “The nature of work has changed and diminished support for traditional labor parties. The nature of religion has changed. … At the same time you have the rise of new issues [that mainstream parties aren’t seen as addressing]. You have immigration concerns. … You have the European Union. You have environmentalism.”