For more than a decade, Rep. Devin Nunes has been about as reliably Republican as they come.
Never one to shy away from controversy or to speak his mind, the Tulare Republican has openly touted a conservative political agenda.
He’s called opponents of a new reservoir above Lake Millerton “radical environmentalists.”
He’s clashed with congressional Democrats and spent a good amount of campaign cash waging a political war against Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
In his book titled “Restoring the Republic,” Nunes said environmental lobbyists were “followers of neo-Marxist, socialist, Maoist or Communist ideals.” Global warming claims were called “hysteria” spread by a “Doomsday cult.”
This week, however, the seemingly impossible happened: Nunes has been attacked by some Republicans — especially Tea Party Republicans — for not being far enough to the political right.
He’s since been called a sellout, a capitulator and, a favorite of Republicans who feel some politician isn’t holding up the party’s principles, a RINO — or “Republican In Name Only.”
It all came after Nunes referred to his hard-line Republican House colleagues as “lemmings with suicide vests” for letting the government shut down over opposition to the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
For the record, Nunes opposes the law. But he thinks shutting down the government over it is a losing strategy for his party, and one that could hurt it politically in the long run.
“All I’m doing is stating the obvious, that we don’t have the votes.” Nunes said in an interview. “I’m now a RINO because I can count.”
In other words, the Senate isn’t supportive of the House’s strategy to shut down the government over Obamacare, and even if it was supportive, there aren’t the votes there to override a veto by President Barack Obama.
Nunes been attacked by fellow Republicans in the media, in calls to his office and even on his Facebook page. People are threatening that he’ll get a political challenger from his own right next year.
Michael Der Manouel Jr., a Fresno businessman and conservative Republican, doesn’t question Nunes’ conservative credentials, and certainly doesn’t consider him a Republican In Name Only.
But, he does say that Nunes “needs to choose his words more carefully when he’s not happy with whatever (Republican) strategy is going on.”
And he sounds like some of Nunes’ Facebook critics when he says Nunes should “stop worrying about tactics and start worrying about your country.” It is, Der Manouel says, a political face-off against rival Democrats, and so Nunes must stand firm for as long as necessary.
But Nunes is equally adamant that it is a losing strategy for his party, in which shutdown supporters have no end game or alternative solution.
“This is bad for those of us trying to work on reforms,” he said.
David Schecter, a Fresno State political science professor, thinks that Nunes is able to speak his mind because he is politically safe — not only from Democrats, but from ultra-conservative Republicans as well.
His district is solidly Republican, and Nunes has the fundraising prowess and a campaign war chest to ward off anyone who might attack from the right next year, Schecter said.
“He’s basically as protected as they get,” Schecter said.