Book Review: Adam Brandon's A Republic, Not a Democracy

In their 2020 biography of James A. Baker, The Man Who Ran Washington, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser predictably spent a lot of time on the individual Baker most famously served: Ronald Reagan. Somewhat surprisingly, but also happily, they weren’t adversarial.

Their reporting on a man they clearly admire in Baker seemingly made them more willing to understand Reagan. In particular, they’re clear that while Reagan had a vision for limiting government, doing so “proved harder than Reagan’s team had imagined – every program they wanted to cut had a constituency, it seemed, often including fellow Republicans.” They didn’t blame Reagan; rather they blamed the system itself that proved insurmountable. Government that’s limited in scope is incredibly difficult to achieve given the basic truth that nearly every politician, regardless of ideology, supports growing at least one aspect of government. That being broadly true, votes are ultimately going to be traded so that everyone’s satisfied.


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