(R-South Carolina House of Representatives, District 14)
South Carolina’s Stewart Jones provides an example of another path into far-right politics – through the Libertarian challenges to mainstream Republican Party politics exemplified by Ron Paul’s political legacy.
In 2011, eight years before he was elected, Jones joined the Facebook groups Phone Bankers for Ron Paul (phone banking phonebanking phonebankers) (2,910 members) and Upstate SC for Ron Paul (246 members). Both were formed to promote Paul in the 2012 election.
Jones promoted events for Paul in the Upstate SC for Ron Paul Facebook group, wrote articles featured in Paul’s YouTube channel Voices of Liberty, and in 2015, was announced as one of Rand Paul’s (Ron’s son) South Carolina Grassroots Leaders while serving as a County Councilman in Laurens.
The road from Libertarianism to far-right politics runs, in part, through this ideology’s general opposition to a government role in addressing inequality. Recall, for instance, that Ron Paul’s newsletter carried racist stereotypes of African Americans, and he once declared that the 1964 Civil Rights Act had “undermine[d] the concept of liberty” and “destroyed the principle of private property and private choices.”
After time in the Paul campaign, in 2014, Jones joined the Greenville Tea Party (1,776 members). Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty was one of many far-right groups that played a role in the Tea Party mobilization.
Like many others who were drawn further into far-right politics after time in the Tea party, in 2018, Jones joined the Posse-influenced group, Constitutional Grassroots Movement (7,023 members).
In 2020, Jones moved into COVID Denial politics and brought his far-right Tea Party-style politics with him. He joined the COVID Denial group South Carolina Citizens for God-given Rights and Against Shelter-In-Place (2,734 members). Their administrators include John Birch Society South Carolina Executive Field Coordinator Evan Mulch (the Birch Society also played an early role in the Tea Party mobilization).
Also in 2020, Jones joined Reopen MD (295 members). In 2021, he joined Aiken Citizens for Freedom (2,230 members) and SC Parental Rights Action Coalition (formerly Unmask Kids SC) (1,158 members). In 2022, he joined REOPEN SC (1,341 members).
In his position as a Representative in South Carolina’s state legislature during the 2021-2022 session, Jones sponsored a range of far-right legislation, including bills to create a “Restore Election Integrity Now” Committee, require voter identification, bar the removal of monuments of an “historical figure,” and the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”
As COVID Denial politics grew, Jones sponsored bills barring the State Department of Health and Environmental Control from spending funds to enforce mask, testing, and vaccine policies; blocking mandatory vaccines and mask requirements in public schools, state agencies, and colleges; prohibiting the state from closing businesses or public beaches, and banning the state from taking federal funds to enforce mask or vaccine mandates.