Shall we play a game?

I suppose I just dated myself with that title. It’s from the 1983 movie War Games where a (very) young Matthew Broderick hacks into a war computer and nearly starts World War III. In the end, the computer learns the concept of a tied game – or no winner possible – and stops the launch of missiles.

It’s how I see Wisconsin politics playing out lately.

Yesterday a federal appeals court decided to lift the federal injunction on the long-running John Doe investigation concluding the issues should remain in Wisconsin state court. Let’s see. After another couple of years if this issue makes it to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, just how can we predict that will end?

The courts have been used repeatedly in Wisconsin as an attempt to undo changes Governor Scott Walker has made since taking office in January 2011. The attempts have only delayed the changes; they have failed to reverse the moves.

ACT 10 to release the stronghold of public unions on Wisconsin’s education system is law.

Requiring a photo ID to vote in Wisconsin is current law.

And since I’m one to enjoy predictions: at the end of four years John Doe proceedings and Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board will be the next couple of enduring changes following Walker’s re-election.

I confess I could be wrong, but I couldn’t find another state where grand jury privileges were assigned to one prosecutor as they are in Wisconsin’s law. Perhaps the law wasn’t changed in the past because no one predicted its use as a political bludgeon.

The same risks exist for Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board created in 2007. They became a political player in the current investigations against Governor Scott Walker. Kevin Kennedy who heads the GAB, is thought to have worked with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm since August 2012 when Chisholm started the second investigation. Just how much longer do you think a Republican Governor, Republican State Senate, and Republican State Assembly will allow the GAB to reign once the investigation concludes? There are already plans to audit the GAB from the State Senate in preparations for reworking the Board.

Wisconsin politics over the past four years have looked more like a lesson in avoiding mutual assured destruction than governing. But time will pass. Supreme Courts will rule. New laws will be made and challenged.

In the meantime Democrats in the state have done little to rally their voters. They lost big in Wisconsin redistricting by ignoring key state legislative races in 2010. Having lost any legislative clout, Wisconsin Democrats have had to rely on the courts–which keep coming back to Wisconsin in a State Supreme Court with a Republican tilt. Exactly how do Democrats in Wisconsin think this will end?

Sure, Democrats have used the tools in the toolbox to hopefully take down a Republican opponent. Yes, there’s evidence that Republicans in Wisconsin have lost esteem in the eyes of independent voters, but will it be enough to elect Mary Burke governor? Unlikely. For Wisconsin Democrats the result is not a tied game, though, but losses in Wisconsin government influence that will last at least a decade.

Maybe Wisconsin Democrats can take a cue from the movie anyway:

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

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