The Republican Party is out of power and out of favor everywhere except the Deep South — which includes parts of North Carolina, true, but not the growing parts. What’s a party to do? asks The New York Times.

And on the newspaper’s op-ed page, David Brooks, the smarter of the Times‘ two conservative columnists (not a tough test, since the other one’s Bill Kristol), says the battle is on in right-side ranks between the “Traditionalists,” who want to slash everything and return to the 19th Century, and the “Reformers,” who want to — uh, well, there’s the problem.

Brooks, who calls himself a Reformer, opines that the GOP must address the elephant in the American room — economic inequality — while figuring out how to appeal to Hispanics, younger voters and independents. Duh. But nothing in the Republican arsenal of immigrant-bashing, gay-bashing, Social Security privatization, tax cuts for the rich, undermining public education, outsourcing jobs to whatever cheap labor market is available, and warning everybody not to have sex until they finish graduate school and get married — straight people only; gays are never to have sex — appeals to anybody who isn’t rich or stupid uninformed. (And starting wars with countries that have a lot of oil isn’t the slam-dunk it used to be either.)

But if Brooks has some other agenda in mind for the GOP, he’s left it to another column.

From here, it looks like Richard Nixon’s ’68 decision to align the Party of Lincoln with Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and the Southern segregationists (Nixon’s famed “Southern Strategy”) has run its downward course to failure in the same way the South’s “Lost Cause” of slave-labor plantations cratered before it. The GOP replaced Southern Democrats as the party of white superiority, aristocracy and “free markets.” And with the same result: A shrinking Confederacy that eventually must give way to an inclusive East, Midwest and West.

While the Republican Party shifted so violently to the right over the past 40 years, the Democrats have become what the Republicans used to be, a stodgy centrist party that stands up for Wall Street, Big Business and the status quo, with a dose of Teddy Roosevelt-style Conservationism thrown in. All the available “room” on the political spectrum for innovation and greater equality, therefore, is over on the political left. Can the Republicans possibly go there?

And if they don’t, will they go instead the way of the Federalists and the Whigs, so irrelevant to the country’s needs that they’re replaced in our constitutionally inevitable two-party system by a new second party — say, a combination of the existing Libertarians and Greens? Or are we headed toward a Japanese-style system where one party occupies so broad a middle (and raises so much corporate cash for its campaigns) that all other parties are marginalized and compete only in regional markets, which is where the Republicans find themselves now.