The Republican Party has identified all kinds of perceived enemies of late, but "experts" have quietly become one of the party's top targets. At the Republican National Convention, for example, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) declared with pride, "We are not and will not be the subjects of an elite class of so-called experts."
Americans have heard similar derision of expertise from Donald Trump, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), and other prominent GOP voices, each of whom have argued that when it comes to making policy decisions -- especially about a raging pandemic -- the important thing is that no one listen too closely to those who know the most about the issues.
With this in mind, perhaps it's not too surprising that when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) administration decided to hire a new data analyst, the governor's team chose "a little-known Ohio sports blogger and Uber driver whose only relevant experience is spreading harmful conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on the Internet." The Miami Herald had this stunning report:
In his own words, Kyle Lamb of Columbus, Ohio, has few qualifications for the job at the state's Office of Policy and Budget, which pays $40,000 per year. "Fact is, I'm not an 'expert.' I'm not a doctor, epidemiologist, virologist or scientist," Lamb wrote on a website for a subscribers-only podcast he hosts about the coronavirus. "I also don't need to be. Experts don't have all the answers, and we've learned that the hard way."
Is this really what we've "learned"? That confused amateurs have the right answers about epidemiology?
The Herald went on to report that Lamb has peddled a series of discredited claims about the pandemic, but he's nevertheless comfortable joining DeSantis' team -- working on, among other things, coronavirus data.
Under normal circumstances, we might expect someone in Lamb's position to insist he has the necessary credentials to take on such a role. But in 2020, given what's become of the Republican Party and its post-policy posture, Lamb seems to take a degree of pride in the fact that he lacks credentials -- as if this were a good thing.
"I have no qualms about being a 'sports guy' moonlighting as a COVID-19 analyst," he wrote on his podcast's website.
The article added, "Sports writers from Ohio were floored that the governor would hire Lamb for any position, calling the blogger 'unhinged,' a 'crackpot' and an 'amateur, basement epidemiologist' in interviews with the Herald. None of that stopped DeSantis, who has downplayed the virus' severity and rolled back restrictions that epidemiologists say help keep people safe, from bringing him to Tallahassee."
Vish Viswanath, a professor of health communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Herald that the blogger's theories are "laughable." The expert added, "It's extremely disconcerting that you appoint somebody that has very limited technical qualifications and has made his agenda very clear. At the end of the day, the price will be paid by the residents of Florida to these steps. So my question is, what is the end game here? Who is going to benefit from this?"
These need not be rhetorical questions.