WASHINGTON, DC — I couldn’t help but notice the serendipity this week of Hollywood’s big night while brokers and agents from across the country gather here in the nation’s capital as part of their annual pilgrimage to lobby elected officials.

NAHU is at its best when all of its forces — or at least the most dedicated of them — are mustered together here in the capital. It’s at its best when it’s firing up its base, engaging an otherwise disenfranchised lot.

And things should be better. For the first time in years — and certainly the first since PPACA squeaked into law — NAHU faces what should be a particularly friendly Congress, stacked with Republican majorities in both chambers. If you discount the bitter cold, it should be a banner year.
 
So why did so many brokers sound as disgruntled as ever in the bar last night? All I heard was complaining — and it had nothing to do with Birdman vs. Boyhood. (Or even  King vs. Burwell.)

I heard one broker celebrating the end of large groups for small houses like his. No one wants them anymore, it seems. No one wants a Lucky Strike. In this post-group economy, it’s not worth the hassle or the heartbreak. The smaller groups are much more receptive, and there’s a shared sense of being in this together.

On the other end of the bar, there was a broker who couldn’t give a damn about PPACA. He argued pretty passionately that what brokers like him needed to worry about was Aon or Marsh. Not Burwell or Biden. His fear, which admittedly teetered on paranoia, stemmed from an absence of trust with both clients and prospects alike.

“Why should I go pitch them?” he asked defiantly. “Why should I waste my time with all that work when all they’re gonna do is turn around and give the business to Gallagher?”

It’s that consolidation of talent — and the subsequent leverage that comes with it — that has brokers living in paralyzing fear of poaching.

To be fair, others were more hopeful, cautiously optimistic that a changing of the guard might actually mean something this time.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I think the number of repeal and replacers has died down, with most of them either leaving the business or adapting to the new environment. Brokers might hate change, but they do a pretty damn good job of rolling with the punches. And at least the ones I spoke with so far realize how much more harm than good it is.

At the end of it all, though, as I watched the self-absorbed celebrities parade across the red carpet, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’re just like them. Are we doing this for ourselves? Is this career of lobbying, selling and advising its own reward? Or are we doing this for our audience — to actually help people?