The Supreme Court, acting in its role as illegitimate superlegislature and scriptural council, from time to time attempts to remove some item of controversy from the political sphere, as it did when it yanked a constitutional right to abortion out of its penumbra in 1973. That did not neutralize abortion as a political issue or elevate it to some new plane of existence in which it is subject only to a divine wisdom superior to politics — it simply took democratic accountability and the democratic voice out of the equation. Sometimes, that is the right thing to do: Mr. Madison et al. included a Bill of Rights in the Constitution precisely to that end. The Bill of Rights is, properly understood, a List of Stuff You Idiots Cannot Be Trusted to Vote On. (“We want to censor that guy!” “Too bad.” “No, we really, really want to, and there’s a bunch of us!” “Too bad.” “We’re the majority!” “Too bad.” Etc.) But sometimes you need the democratic contest. Knowing what ought to be subject to plebiscitary judgment and what ought to be above or outside of formal democratic processes is a big part of political wisdom, which has not grown plentiful since the 18th century.
At the moment, we’ve stood that wisdom on its head, lamenting the inevitably political actions of the political bodies while accepting — sometimes gleefully, sometimes with despair—the politicization of those institutions that ought to be outside of politics, the Supreme Court and the federal bureaucracies chief among them. Of course the Democrats’ attempt to prevent the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is a political part of a political process; of course the Republican response to this will be political (and, one hopes, entirely ruthless). Presidents politicize everything they touch, every room they enter, and every subject about which they speak: President George H. W. Bush managed to politicize broccoli during his tenure. Of course the Texas legislature will have an eye on politics when it engages in redistricting: Redistricting is a political process, one whose character is the direct result of the ordinary democratic processes by which the members of state legislatures are elected. A politicized House committee is a House committee functioning as intended; a politicized IRS is a menace to liberty and democracy that ought to be handled with the seriousness of a foreign invasion.