Liberals and moderates are combing Judge Robert Bork's writings, speeches, and judicial opinions, seeking some nonpolitical basis for opposing his nomination to the Supreme Court.

What they are looking for is not some sort of ADA rating that says this nominee is too conservative. His conservatism is public knowledge and, indeed, the basis for his nomination to the Supreme Court. No, what the "good guys" (from my point of view) hope to find is some flaw, some disqualifier, some evidence that Bork's political/judicial philosophy places him outside the American mainstream.

The unspoken assumption is that the simple expectation that Bork will rule against their interests -- "naked political grounds," as conservative columnist George Will put it -- is insufficient basis for opposing him.

Mary Frances Berry, to her enormous credit, refuses to play the game.

"It is perfectly clear that the president can nominate for any reason whatever," says this lawyer, historian, university professor and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "But it is also clear that the Senate can give its advice and consent on any basis and for any reason. They are equal."

Berry does not buy the notion that President Reagan's overwhelming reelection protects his nominee from unfettered Senate scrutiny.

"The Constitutional Convention spent a lot of time discussing whether to give the entire appointment authority to the president," she said in an interview the day after Reagan named Bork to replace retiring Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. "They decided the Senate should play a role."

But this Senate's moderates and liberals, perhaps typified by its Judiciary Committee chairman, Joseph Biden, seem reluctant, absent some disqualifying flaw, to play more than a rubber-stamp role. The reluctance baffles Berry.

"The president said Bork shares his judicial philosophy, and he certainly is entitled to make the nomination on that basis," said Berry, newly appointed Geraldine Segal professor of American social thought at the University of Pennsylvania. "The Senate has an equal right to oppose the nomination on the same basis. Based on what I know about Bork now -- and we may get additional information during the confirmation hearings -- I'd oppose him for the same reason the president proposed him. Just as the president believes Bork is not only qualified but is guided by an ideology he finds compatible, any senator could say, 'Here's a guy exceptionally well qualified, but I, unlike the president, do not agree with his ideology.'"

Liberals and moderates are clear enough on what they don't like about the nominee. They fear, on the basis of his record, his prospective decisions on such matters as women's rights, privacy, affirmative action and the First Amendment. Berry has an additional concern: his notion that the Supreme Court should give presumptive weight to "the will of the majority" in interpreting the Constitution. "I'm not a part of the majority, so that means I'd be in trouble. The presumption when you go in {in cases involving allegations that specific statutes are in conflict with the Bill of Rights} is that because the statutes were passed by a Congress representing the majority of the people, the majority is right and you're wrong. Well, my view is that the Constitution implements not democracy -- majority rule -- but republicanism, which takes into account the interests of the minority."

For all her willingness to oppose the Bork nomination, Berry, until recently a professor at Howard University, not only expects Bork to be confirmed but doubts that his elevation to the Supreme Court would "change the course of history." She thinks that very little would change.

"Indeed, if you wanted to be Machiavellian about it, you might say that his appointment would broaden support for the {civil rights/civil liberties} movement. If the court wound up overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion decision or affirmative action, it could energize and mobilize the disaffected." On the other hand, that broadened support for the traditional civil rights agenda might come at the expense of the recent focus on issues of economic justice.

Her main point, though, is that members of the Senate should get over their notion that they must vote to confirm Bork if their efforts fail to turn up evidence that he is some sort of wild man bomb thrower.

Disagreement with his judicial philosophy is grounds enough