Maybe Walter Berns {op-ed, Aug. 24} and James Q. Wilson {op-ed, Aug. 31} should consult the many voters who, according to a story in The Post, see the battle over Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court to be a political one. These voters seem to know what many academics such as Berns and Wilson try so vigorously to deny: that judges are political beings just like the rest of us, and their selection is an inherently political process.

Berns maintains that judges are not politicians and that the best way to judge a judge is "by his refusal to be political." Wilson states that judges should be questioned on their understanding of Herbert Wechsler's "neutral principles." Both Berns and Wilson believe that law and politics are separate, a view popular among lawyers and non-lawyers alike. It is attractive because it promises a realm of certainty in civil life -- judges and their "neutral" principles are somehow immune to the vacillations of mere politics. But to achieve that degree of certainty, it must turn a blind eye to the realities of human nature.

Such a view ignores the reality that law and politics are seldom very distinct, whether in the courtroom of the third branch of government or the hearing room of the first. Nor should they be. Both law and politics are at heart about what society values and the choices it is willing to make among competing values. Law seeks to remove itself from the realm of politics and values by acquiring the air of Newtonian science, full of objective principles and linear causation. Science itself, however, long ago traded in classical Newtonian physics and its "objectivity" for Einstein's theory of relativity and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Law is operating a century behind its scientific model.

Just as classical physics sought to insulate humankind from the vagaries of the natural world, to impose order on chaos, so classical legal theory tries to insulate humankind from the vagaries of the political world. It imagines that some sort of "neutral principles" can save us from ourselves (or our judges) and our shifting values. According to this view, the task is just to find a judge smart enough to understand those principles and "restrained" enough to uphold them. A judge like Bork.

Berns praises Bork for recognizing that he is "limited by the rules and moral principles embodied in the text of the Constitution." But the Constitution's text is not self-explicating. Objective meanings are hard to come by, even to a group of legal pedigrees. A judge's task is to interpret the Constitution: if its language were self-evident, a judge's role would be redundant. It's silly to pretend that the Constitution holds some sort of neutral content immune to the dispositions and judicial temperament of the people who construe it. Classical legal theory easily degenerates into the constitutional equivalent of Biblical inerrancy, which ignores the inevitable role of interpretation.

And where there is interpretation there is politics. The view that law and politics are separate is dangerous because it presents itself as indisputable truth rather than just another political choice subject to debate. Consequently, the nomination process for a Supreme Court Justice is open only to "experts" who speak the language of legislative intent, precedent and "neutral" principles. Ordinary citizens, who speak the language of values without legal camouflage, have nothing relevant to say and are excluded from the debate.

But the Constitution doesn't exclude ordinary citizens from the nomination process. Since the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, the people have had a direct voice in the election of senators, and senators are responsible to their constituents for the exercise of their power. Among a senator's constitutional powers is advice and consent regarding Supreme Court appointments, as stated in Article II, Section 2. Constituents have just as much right to lobby their senators over the use of that power as they would over a water-project vote.

Once judges are appointed to the Supreme Court, they are immune from politics in the sense that they are no longer accountable to the people. But judges are never immune from their own personal politics, their judicial philosophy -- even when they claim they don't have one. That in itself is a political choice. The people are given one chance to determine how their Constitution will be interpreted, through the confirmation process. They would be foolish not to use it.

Yet The Post has discouraged citizens from getting involved in Bork's confirmation {editorial, July 2}, perhaps falling prey to the law-and-politics dichotomy itself. "There will be a mass mobilization," says Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice. "We hope not," says The Post. "That kind of approach to the nomination would be wrong, wrong, wrong." But what The Post doesn't bother to say is why, why, why -- especially given the people's role under the 17th Amendment. "This isn't a mud-pie contest," says The Post. Indeed not. It's an exercise in the fundamental values of this country, an example of democracy in action.

Walter Berns believes that a judge such as Robert Bork, who claims to separate law and politics, is most consistent with democratic government. But the implication of his argument is anti-democratic, because it excludes citizens (i.e., politics) from the nomination process. Law and politics are inextricable, and Americans should be suspicious of those who claim to be above the fray. In judging judges, the task is to determine exactly what their politics are, not pretend they don't have any. The Constitution gives the people an important role in that process.

To discourage citizens from participating in the confirmation process of a Supreme Court justice flies in the face of what the bicentennial of the Constitution is all about. Bork's confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin on Sept. 15; the bicentennial of the signing of the original Constitution is Sept. 17. There's no better way to celebrate that occasion than for citizens to let their senators know their views on Bork's nomination, whether he should be interpreting the Constitution for the next few decades. It sure beats reading about the Constitution on the backs of cereal boxes.

Linda Monk is a Washington writer specializing in constitutional issues.