Without power ideas mean nothing,
However power is not typically universally easy to obtain. As the old adage goes, if it were easy (and obvious) then everybody would be doing it. It might be easy for a few lucky persons who happen to have the right background and happen to be convenient to the general forces of politics, but in general it is not.
Even if one does have the right background, there are others who do also. Being born into the right family does not guarentee that one will become a political leader and even if one does there are others who are also competing. Be born a Bush and you might be President, governor, or maybe just a failed S&L banking executive. By any measure it still is not easy, simply in some cases more possible than others. Nixon and Clinton were both from impoverished or rocky households, but then again so far all our Presidents whatever their humble beginnings have been white men.
Therefore all power requires sacrifices. First it is not easy and then on top of that others are competing for it. This is a truism of every field and profession. However in cases of power it requires sacrifices beyond the discipline and competition itself and having purely to do with manipulating the rules of competition. This is how we can define politics. Politics is politics not merely because it requires sacrifices to master a subject or sacrifices to win a competition but it requires sacrifices in order to manipulate the rules of the system.
A university administrator or departmental provost usually starts out an academic just like other academics. However at some point in time they make a choice. This choice usually involves being offered some key responsibilities for Administration. In order to expand these, they curtail their scholarly teaching and research activities. It is difficult to have both a full scholarly career and to advance in administration. So there are two sacrifices already, one for the mastery of the subject of administration and the other for cutting back scholarly activities to improve the chances of advancement for bureaucratic openings. However this job has not itself yet become political. When the provost or administrator begins shaping their decisions not according to the bureaucratic rules they must master but to advance or maintain themselves in a more favorable light compared to other competitors for reasons outside the strict technical criteria of competition then this becomes political.
So what is the sacrifice in the political? It is freedom. The freedom to make choices about what is the best course to pursue. From this comes the maxim of 'power is its own policy'. Those who tend to rise within a system or stay within it are those who over time are willing to make compromises away from the best course of action and toward that which advances their position within the system. This is why John Kerry did not contest the votes in the Presidential election.
In one sense, it would have cost him little. First of all, he owed it to the people who had voted for him so that they would feel that they had their interests represented aggressively. Secondly, the American electoral system is flawed on a technical basis and forcing these flaws to be exposed would have assisted in its eventual reform. Thirdly, he was at the end of a long and distinguished career of public service. If he had been ostracized for prolonging the vote count and contesting the election it would have only meant a departure to a quite luxurious private life.
On one level, the tatical level his decision makes perfect sense. To understand why we have to refer to a previous historical case. It was the election of John F. Kennedy against Richard Nixon. Nixon lost a very close election and did not choose to contest it. Years later, eight years later in fact, he would return and win the Presidency and in fact go on to win a second term (though of course he resigned partway through the second term).
We can contrast that with the case of Albert Gore. He ran a very close election with GWB. Even if the tally were accounted as the Bush campaign contends it is acknowledged that Gore won the popular vote and only lost the key electoral college Florida vote by a few hundred or thousand votes. In a system rife with errors that is a very small and shaky margin to lose by. However he contested the election and eventually conceded. In doing so he did all the right things from an ethical point of view, but he was still effectively exiled from political life.
To his side he was an embaressing failure and to the the other side he was an uneasy reminder of the shaky mandate and legitimacy of their standard bearer. So he started teaching college and grew a beard and spent more time with his family. Overall I would argue that he is happier, since being the President is no picnic but he was definitely the loser.
So John Kerry is a person who has spent his whole life making compromises to maintain viability. He thinks back to Nixon, and he considers what happened to Gore, and he quickly and quietly concedes defeat. However this begs two questions. The first is that if a person of John Kerry's stature and legacy of public service cannot make sacrifices of power on principle then who can feel free to do so? The second is that Nixon may indeed have become President, but the same monomaniacal focus on power and obtaining it led to the growth a paranoia that would make him cross the line and bring his own Presidency down over a "third rate burglary".
The very sacrifices the power entails: the sacrifices of principle, of opportunities elsewhere, and of public scrutiny cause the power to become very dear to the person. It is indeed what they have given up everything else for. Yet that power by the very nature of its compromised origin will always be beholden to the system that produced it. This is why year after year new persons in the mold of the idealistic "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" seek to go into government and in the end become a part of the system instead of changing it.
The reason is that that whose who won't play ball don't last that long and those that do play ball soon lose track of why they were doing it. They're like these major league baseball players that have competed and slaved an entire lifestime to get to the literal big leagues as far as pay and perks go and then become assholes because they forget why people liked watching baseball: because it was fun. This is why Lord Acton wrote power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A collary should be that all power requires sacrifice, and the more power the more sacrifices, and the more is sacrificed for it the harder it is to let go of the power for its own sake.
The system can only change when those who obtain power at the greatest personal cost then sacrifice the power itself to change the system. To change the system means to change the basis of power. It means to undermine one's own power base. Changing the system is the only change that matters, because everything else is produced by the system. The purpose of power is to spend itself in order to make the world a better place. If you end up with power you can either cling to it or you can use it up for the knowledge that you've improved the world.
I'm not sure I know where this line of reasoning is going exactly. This line of thinking is somewhat personally disturbing. Perhaps the only justification for power is that it allows one to move from addressing symptoms and phenomenas and that it gives one the opportunity to address the systemic and root causes.