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Who Governs?

One of the great themes of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain is time. In one haunting passage, Mann describes the curious distortion of the experience of time that occurs to many inmates of the mountain sanatorium where the book’s principal action unfolds. Each day seems to go on forever, but the weeks whiz by and months, well, they just evanesce without trace.

I suspect something similar happens on pleasure cruises. I am only into my second day of National Review’s post-election cruise and already I can see that there are odd bulges and contractions in the orderly progression of minutes and hours. Those looking after the passengers must have some inkling of this, for I noticed that all of the elevators (yes, elevators: this is one big ship) have mats that announce the day of the week lest the patrons lose track of just where in the week they are. Today, in case you were wondering, is MONDAY.

So far, the mood has been distinctly upbeat. The results of November 2 waft like a pleasing zephyr through the hallways of this red-state crowd. Yes, there were disappointments, but every rose has its thorn and although Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer are formidable thorns around here, there is an unstated gentleman’s agreement to regard the election as cause for celebration.

I think it was, too, though it is worth asking exactly what happened. That was the subject of the first two sessions, an interview between longtime NR staffer John J. Miller and Pat Toomey, one of the brightest new conservative lights in the Senate, and an interview between NR editor Rich Lowry and conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen.

The big theme Senator-elect Toomey and Scott Rasmussen had in common was this: the 2010 mid-term election was not an endorsement of Republicans. It was a shot -- a veritable cannonade -- across the bow of the political establishment, Republican just as much as Democrat. As Mr. Toomey put it, Republicans are very much “on probation.” If they pack their bags, go to Washington, and continue the big-government, tax-and-spend policies that has been the stock-in-trade of the political class for as long as anyone can remember, then 2012 will be a repeat of 2010, but with a load of those just voted in voted out.