The Recombobulation Area’s Year in Review

Plus: Looking ahead to 2021.

The Recombobulation Area is a weekly opinion column by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.


The first full year of The Recombobulation Area is coming to a close. Thanks to all of you for reading, subscribing and supporting this effort this year. We’re making it through this mess together, one week of recombobulation at a time.

As we reach the end of the long, difficult year that was 2020, we’re looking ahead to a brighter 2021, all while taking stock of what we learned this year. 

This year has been one of an unprecedented convergence of crises. Crisis doesn’t always build character, but it certainly reveals it. We’ve seen some who have met this moment of crisis, and those who have failed this test of character. It’s important that we take those lessons with us as we forge ahead. 

But before we take a look back through our last twelve months together, I want to take a moment to mention what’s on deck for The Recombobulation Area. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my wife and I are expecting the arrival of a daughter, and that is happening in mid-January (!!!), so I will be off on paternity leave in the weeks that will follow. So, what that means around here is that I am not planning to be writing any new columns during the month of January. In the months that follow, however, I am planning to continue building upon the success we’ve seen this past year. My goal is for that next phase of The Recombobulation Area to include a few new things (all in development/TBD/etc. at the moment). I’m optimistic and excited about what’s to come. I hope you are, too.

This independent media project has always had a larger mission, but from the very beginning, I’ve said this effort would start small, start independently, and build one piece at a time. With your continued support, that is what we are continuing to do. Let’s keep building this thing together. 

So, while I might not be writing columns for the next few weeks, I’ll still be available, and if you want to talk to me about what’s next, my inbox is always open (especially to subscribers!), so feel free to contact me at therecombobulationarea@gmail.com.

With that, let’s take a look back at the year that was here in The Recombobulation Area. Please gather your things and find your gate, and let’s take a trip through the year that was. 

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January

The Foxconn Debacle Is Key to What the Trump Era Has Meant in Wisconsin

Trump Demonized and Lied About Immigrants at His Milwaukee Campaign Rally and We Barely Noticed

February

Q&A: The Candidates for Milwaukee County Executive

Endorsement: David Crowley for Milwaukee County Executive

March

State Republicans Are Planning a ‘Nine-Month Vacation’ From the Legislature. Democrats Want to Keep Working.

Decimated By the COVID-19 Crisis, The Restaurant Industry Needs a Bailout. Now.

April

The Tragedy of the Wisconsin Spring Election

9 Takeaways From the Wisconsin Spring Election

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May

Crisis Inaction: Wisconsin Republicans’ Lack of Urgency During the Pandemic Has Already Cost $25 Million. What Will It Cost Next?

The Lost Summer: Milwaukee’s Breakthrough Moment Isn’t Happening

June

Black Lives Matter: The Urgency of This Moment Requires Immediate Policy Action. In Wisconsin and Milwaukee, What Could That Be?

In Conversation with Dr. Jeanette Kowalik: How Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis Helped Milwaukee's COVID-19 Response

July

Legislative Inaction Nears 100 Days

Gov. Evers Should Keep Calling Special Sessions Until Wisconsin Republicans Take Action

August

Endorsement: Joe Biden for President

Milwaukee Bucks Historic Protest Lets the World Know: The Wisconsin State Legislature’s “Months of Inaction” is Beyond Unacceptable

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September

The Recombobulation Area’s 2020 State Legislative Election Preview: Part I, The State Senate

The Recombobulation Area's 2020 State Legislative Election Preview: Part II, The State Assembly

October

MOST READ: Wisconsin Is Now the Epicenter for Coronavirus in America

Facing an Alarming Coronavirus Outbreak, Wisconsin Is Stuck

November

Wisconsin State Legislative Election Results Live Blog

Post-Election Recombobulation: Wisconsin Deals the Deciding Blow To Defeat Donald Trump

December

PODCAST: Jeff Roman, Director of the Milwaukee County Office on African American Affairs

Milwaukee’s Monumental Moment: Giannis Antetokounmpo's Decision to Stay Brings Fresh Hope to the Brew City


Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes The Recombobulation Area. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s also written for The Daily Beast, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.


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Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.