Albright: The Huddle

May 4, 2017

I know almost nothing about football, but I have noticed that when the going gets tough, a team huddles to figure out how to turn things around. And in today’s political arena, small huddles - neighborhood meetings - are popping up everywhere.

Spurred by the organizers of the women’s march on Washington, these strategy sessions attempt to keep momentum going. Team players prod each other to contact members of Congress about what the huddle perceives as threats to things like health care access, environmental protection, and reproductive rights. And while nobody’s expecting an instant touchdown here, voicing dissent has got to be better than shivering on the sidelines, wrapped in one of those thin metallic space blankets, nursing an injury.

So, one recent chilly night over home-made minestrone soup, I huddled with about a dozen friends to brainstorm ways to engage politically in the run-up to the next election just two years away.

Sitting in a circle, speaking in turn, we avoided whining, and focused, instead, on the most serious policy challenges facing America right now - one issue at a time. For our first assignment, we all agreed to voice our concerns - in writing, ideally - about replacing the Affordable Care Act with a GOP plan that may well result in 24 million Americans coming off the insurance rolls while most of the rest of us would see our premiums rise.

Our huddle organizer - our coach, if you will - is a primary care doctor who says that without insurance, his low income patients - and there are a lot of them in his Northeast Kingdom practice - would forego preventive care and return to the bad old days of just going to emergency rooms only when they got really sick. The resulting unpaid bills would be shifted to ratepayers and to hospitals, perhaps causing some of them to go under.

So we huddlers went home and wrote letters and made calls, as did many other Americans. A temporary victory followed, but the ACA is now under threat again, apparently. And so is the Environmental Protection Agency. At our last huddle, some team members decided to run with the ball and took part in the People’s Climate March Solidarity Rally in Montpelier.

It’s not entirely clear to me where all this activism will lead, but in politics as in football, if you want to score, you have to stay in the game.