Appearing on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Susan Rice argued the coronavirus is an opportunity to “broaden oursocial safety net” and ensure “every American has the ability to vote” by mail amid the coronavirus crisis.
You’ve written an article, an opinion op-ed in The New York Times, and you say it’s not enough to just get back to normal.
You also write this, ‘The coronavirus has laid bare our domestic divisions unequal economy and glaring racial and socioeconomic disparities as well as the fragility of our democracy.’ Ambassador, how should the United States use this crisis right now to address some of those problems that you mentioned fully exposed by the virus?
Well, Wolf, I say that going back to normal isn’t acceptable because what we’ve seen what was normal has been extraordinarily costly and deadly for all Americans. And yet what we’ve also learned from this experience and for many of us it wasn’t learning it, it was just making it very obvious to those perhaps who didn’t see it is that we have a society that remains extremely unequal, in racial and socioeconomic terms and so many other ways.
This is a moment not only of crisis but inherent in that crisis is opportunity. And we need to take a step to broaden our social safety net to ensure that the most vulnerable have the health care, have the education, have the housing that they need. But in the immediate term because many of those things are going to take time and be ambitious.
I recommend two critical steps that Congress could take in the next legislation that it passes. One is to ensure that every American has the ability to vote safely in our November election. We saw the fiasco in Wisconsin, which has cost scores of lives. And we have a real challenge to ensure that voters are able to access the ballot by mail, by longer periods of early voting, by safer polling stations, and that is the job of Congress to ensure. And secondly, Congress can make a down payment on this effort to build a more equitable society by expanding national service. And in particular, by creating something called a health force which can begin by hiring unemployed Americans and the like to be contact tracers when 300,000 of them are going to be needed for us to trace and open up safely.