You're right Kevin. As Matt Yglesias has written, the GOP -- unlike parties of the right in other rich democracies -- has never really reconciled itself to the existence of the welfare state. British or Canadian voters can vote for the Tories safe in the knowledge that Cameron and Harper couldn't -- and more importantly don't want to -- end the state's role in protecting people from the vicissitudes of life under capitalism. You really can't have that assurance as an American with respect to the Republicans.
And that I believe could well be the fatal flaw in the rigid ideology practiced by American conservatives. It's not just that they have not reconciled themselves to the existence of the welfare state. It's that the electorate most certainly has reconciled themselves to the existence of the welfare state. Beyond merely reconciling with it's existence the electorate, in fact, likes the welfare state. The various programs that fall under this broad category are very popular.
Republican's cheered the election of the conservative Sarkozy in France but didn't seem to realize that Sarkozy's conservatism is not Grover Norquist or George W. Bush's conservatism. Take the issue of health care, France has a large universal health care system that is routinely attacked by American conservatives. In France though the system is not an electoral issue, it's not a subject for debate. Moderates in France can vote for a man like Sarkozy without worrying that at the first opportunity he will rush to dismantle the highly succesful and highly popular program.
Contrast that with the actions of George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans after the 2004 election. They rushed headlong into an attempt to dismantle Social Security, a popular and successful program. They demonstrated to moderates and independents that if given power they will adhere to a rigid anti-government philosophy regardless of the popularity or success of any given social program.
The lesson for moderates and independents is clear, they cannot entrust sole control of the Federal government to the Republican Party.
I believe Public Enemy said it best, Can't Truss It