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An abortion rights protester flies an upside-down U.S. flag

An abortion rights activist flies an upside-down U.S. flag outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2022. (Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images)

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson

Renowned environmentalist and author Naomi Klein argued Thursday that over the past week, the United States experienced the early stages of a "rolling judicial coup" as the Supreme Court took a sledgehammer to abortion rights, gun control laws, and the federal government's authority to tackle greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling the global climate emergency.

"We have witnessed a shock-and-awe judicial coup," Klein wrote in a column for The Intercept, pointing also to the right-wing high court's decisions to weaken Indigenous sovereignty and further undermine the separation of church and state.

"Biden and the Democrats are currently careening toward a wave of defeats. But it's not too late to get back on track."

"And now this: a decision that eviscerates the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate a major source of the carbon emissions destabilizing our planet," wrote Klein, who for years has explored the ways in which reactionary political forces and corporations have taken advantage of crises to impose their will—a method she has dubbed "The Shock Doctrine."

West Virginia v. EPA marks a seismic win for such forces, which have spent decades coordinating and taking legal action against the federal government's regulatory authority, particularly when it comes to challenging the ability of corporations to pollute and degrade the environment as they please.

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," Klein warned Thursday. "Next term, the Supreme Court will hear a redistricting case that could well make it far easier to concoct a legal pretense for overriding the popular vote in elections in favor of state-appointed electors—the very thing that Donald Trump attempted but failed to do, because enough people were afraid of ending up in jail."

"There is no reason to believe that a group of people whose very presence on the bench required grotesque abuses of democracy would somehow draw the line at thwarting it," she added. "The moment to stop them from getting the chance is right now."

Klein argued that to combat the right-wing justices' sweeping attacks on basic freedoms and the climate, President Joe Biden and the narrowly Democratic Congress must "challenge the underlying legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court and advance an aggressive climate action agenda."

"History contains crossroads when a single set of decisions can alter the trajectory of a people—or even a planet," Klein continued. "The Biden administration's response to the Supreme Court's 6-3 EPA ruling, hot on the heels of the other outrageous power grabs, is a moment like that."

In the wake of the court's decision Thursday, climate groups and progressive lawmakers made clear that Biden and Congress have at their disposal numerous executive and legislative tools to rein in fossil fuel use, slash planet-warming emissions, and bolster renewable energy production. Whether they opt to use them is a matter of political will.

"Biden and the Democrats are currently careening toward a wave of defeats," Klein wrote. "But it's not too late to get back on track. They have just been handed a winning platform: Use the Supreme Court's attack on urgent carbon control as a catalyst to build a more meaningful democracy and take transformational climate action at the same time. If they decide to run with it, everybody on this planet wins. If they refuse, they deserve every loss coming their way."


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