Stanley Kurtz argues that the Gang of Eight Deal was so bad because the Republicans on the Gang of Eight were rolled by the Democrats. Kurtz writes:
Were our negotiators just stupid? I don’t think so. They were desperate. They believed that it was necessary to put the immigration issue “behind them” if the party was to prosper. Schumer used that desperation to stampede our negotiators into buying a bad bill.
Ramesh Ponnuru disagrees and writes that the Gang of Eight was pretty much the amnesty plus weak enforcement plus guest worker program that the Republicans on the Gang of Eight wanted. Ponnuru is right. Kurtz’s mistake is in looking at the Republicans in the Gang of Eight as “our” negotiators. John McCain and Lindsey Graham were enthusiastic supporters of George W. Bush’s.2007 amnesty and guest worker program. That same year, House of Representatives member Jeff Flake introduced an amnesty bill with a far larger guest worker program than the one in the Gang of Eight bill. McCain abandoned his pro-amnesty position when the Bush amnesty plan went down in flames and it became obvious that McCain had to choose between his immigration policy preferences and his presidential ambition. Flake recanted his support for a “comprehensive” amnesty and guest worker bill while he was running for the Senate, but now that he has been safely elected, it is the same old Jeff Flake.
The Republicans on the Gang of weren’t “desperate.” They were hoping that the intraparty opposition to the an amnesty and guest worker program was so demoralized by the recent election results that they could get pass a bill that gave “amnesty” to people who had already been deported and whose “tough” enforcement triggers included a provision to have border state officials come together and come up with a plan for border security (or not, because that is okay too under the bill.). They Gang of Four Republicans are not “our negotiators” and they are not on our side on this issue. They are on Chuck Schumer’s side (though their motivations likely only partly overlap with Schumer’s.) That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the same Republicans on the Gang of Eight (and other Republicans too) obviously value their political hides. They have abandoned their principles in the face of political pressure from their constituents before. It is only because they feel that the pressure is off that they have reverted to their 2007 selves. If conservatives can rally in opposition to this bill with enough energy, there is a reasonable chance that enough Republicans will decide to vote against it to block the bill. It would be better if we had better Republicans who came up with a better plan, but that is where we are at the moment. As Milton Friedman said, sometimes the best you can do is change the incentives so that the wrong people do the right thing. So we need to go about changing the incentives.