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Yesterday evening was the State of the Union address.  Or as I like to call it – the President’s post-Christmas wish list.  I haven’t watched the State of the Union since sometime during the Clinton presidency.  It always drove me nuts when I did watch it.  Lots of empty platitudes, lots of legislative goodies wished for, lots of “Oh I can’t wait to shake the President’s hand, I’m so excited I might pee myself.”  And most annoying of all – lots of clapping.  It (clapping) seems (clapping) like (clapping) they (clapping) clap (clapping while standing to show support) after (clapping) every (clapping) word. (another standing to clap).  Intermix that with a scanning of the House chamber so we can see all the political VIPs.  Reminds me of those Hollywood awards shows – again, something I don’t waste my time with.

I have friends who did watch it and lapped it up.  And others who watched it and probably felt sick afterward.  Some shared their “conversion” stories of how they were Republicans some time in the past and became discouraged with the cowboy rhetoric and how grateful they were for the president and how wonderful they think he is.

I’ve had my own political “conversion” over time as well.  Mine was a bit different.  I started off deep in one of the US political parties – I was one of those people who would drink gallons of the cool-aid.  Politics was my life.  And this political party was the essence of goodness – or so I willingly believed.  Anything people in this party did was good and the rhetoric was the Gospel truth.  Yes, naive, I know.  What can I say, I was young once.

Then I had some realizations.  I realized that what I was doing was empty.  I got tired of getting people elected, really good people, who then turned around and voted for corrupt leadership.  I had enough.  I didn’t change to the other US political party because I realized that both parties are really, in their essence, just full of it.  Politics is really about one thing – power.

I recently read a great article on this – “Politics isn’t a fairytale about good versus bad.”  This article is well written and right on the money.  It should be.  It’s written by the leaders of a political party in Europe.  The honesty around it is refreshing.

Here’s what the author of the article defines politics:

Politics is basically the art of power, of how to obtain and retain it.

If you want to understand this in more practical terms, here’s something to understand:

What matters is not the end that would justify the means, so much as who decides which wars are just, when a military intervention is humanitarian, or when torture and killing are required by reason of state.

Politics is fluid in other words.  It’s relative.

Once we understand that realpolitik and reason of state explain political actions better than any kind of legitimising ideology, we will recognise the cynicism of all those who present politics as a fairytale about goodies and baddies.

It also explains why people could make arguments that contradict what they just said.  One example are people who criticize a candidate with limited experience in political office, yet turn around and make arguments for a candidate they like who has similar limited experience.

So what role does morality play in politics?

Is this to say that morality has no place in politics? By no means. But in order to change something, first you have to understand how it works.

And that, my friends, is the most important part of this – acknowledging and understanding how politics actually works.  Politics isn’t about the application of this policy or that policy, it’s not about which constituents get helped, it’s not about debates about tax policy.  It’s not about any of the things so many people get caught up in and fight over and posts meme’s about.  Those are just ploys and distractions ultimately and great ways to keep people divided.  It’s the reason why I don’t bother watching the State of the Union.

Politics is about power – obtaining it and keeping it.  Understand this and you start to see how politics is played out a bit differently.  You hear past the rhetoric.  You see why a certain policy is proposed and others are not.  You start to understand timing.  You listen to speeches differently.

When you understand what politics is really about, you can also then do things that can bring about real change in the political system.  But you also realize that changing the political system is also about changing humanity.  And considering that humanity is pretty much the same it has been for thousands of years, you better have you hope in something deeper than some politician who is in office for a few years.