by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The emperor Augustus who oversaw the transition from the nonstop civil war of a collapsing republic to the Principate — with all the good and bad that such a transition entailed — was fond of quoting the Greek aphorism “Make haste slowly” (?????? ??????? / Latin: festina lente).
That seeming paradox of advocating both speed and caution was actually no contradiction at all. The adage instead reminded leaders that swift change can proceed only with careful forethought and deliberation, the same way that a swift crab scurries boldly across the beach but does so well protected in his shell.
The classical message is that to effect change, the agent must first anticipate from where and why furious opposition will arise — and then how best to preempt it and turn it against the opponent. Key to the strategy of change is to remind citizens that the present action is a corrective of past extremism, a move to the center not to the opposite pole, and must be understood as reluctantly reactive, not gratuitously revolutionary. Such forethought is not a sign of timidity or backtracking, but rather the catalyst necessary to make change even more rapid and effective.
Take Trump’s immigration stay. In large part, it was an extension of prior temporary policies enacted by both Presidents Bush and Obama. It was also a proper correction of Trump’s own unwise and ill-fated campaign pledge to temporarily ban Muslims rather than take a pause to vet all immigrants from war-torn nations in the Middle East.