Look, it doesn’t require developing love for trial lawyers or tax increases to recognize that this kind of stupid, mindless, red-meat crap from Grover Norquist is a big part of the GOP’s problem, not the solution to its problems. These guys are like ghosts who don’t realize they’re dead. They just keep saying the same things over and over again, because that’s all they know to do. And they mistake partisan audiences hooting over these stale applause lines for popular support.

Hey Republicans, listen to US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a commonsense Nebraska Republican and strong social conservative, who told me for TAC earlier this year:

RD: You broke party ranks last year by refusing to renew your pledge not to vote for any future tax increases. Since when do Republican congressmen dare to defy Grover Norquist?

JF: My responsibility is to make judgments about hard, complex issues that I believe to be right. Simply looking at the status quo and suggesting that the tax code is sacrosanct and can never change, and that decisions made in the ’80s and ’90s can never change, is absurd. The tax code is weighted toward the ultra-wealthy and ultra-wealthy corporations, and has created an offshore aristocracy of people who can afford to hire an army of accountants and lawyers. This shifts the tax burden to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and others. I don’t want to see taxes go up on any hardworking American. We need a simpler, fairer tax code. Removing special-interest loopholes could potentially increase revenues and allow for lower rates.

We’ll know the Republicans are serious about change when they start standing up to ideological enforcers like Norquist in public forums and telling him where to get off.

UPDATE: Norquist plays roughly the same role in GOP circles that the odious Jesse Jackson used to play in Democratic circles. For Jesse, it’s always Selma 1965; for Grover, it’s always Washington 1981.