I may be reading too much into the November 2012 elections, but they seem to have genuinely altered the drift of American political discourse. Minority groups from Hispanics to the nonreligious played central roles in the reelection of President Barack Obama and in numerous congressional, state, and even local races. (Obama arguably owes his election to an ad hoc coalition of women and minority groups, because Mitt Romney won the votes of a majority of white males.) I can’t help hoping that the great sociopolitical pendulum that’s been swinging relentlessly toward the right for close to forty years now has finally reached its end point. Maybe, just maybe, it’s actually begun to swing back.
If this is so—if our country has entered, or is about to enter, a new period of leftward movement—then secular humanists, atheists, and other freethinkers need to recalibrate their strategies. For so long our activism has been focused on resisting conservative efforts to roll back the rights won during the 1960s, in the New Deal, or even the Progressive Era. We’ve been so intent on preserving our rights that it’s been years since most of us gave serious thought to seeking to expand them.