DN 2 wrote:"Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to talking about lowly topics such as these — talking about kings, robbers, ministers of state; armies, alarms, and battles; food and drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, and scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women and heroes; the gossip of the street and the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity [philosophical discussions of the past and future], the creation of the world and of the sea, and talk of whether things exist or not — he abstains from talking about lowly topics such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue.
"Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to debates such as these — 'You understand this doctrine and discipline? I'm the one who understands this doctrine and discipline. How could you understand this doctrine and discipline? You're practicing wrongly. I'm practicing rightly. I'm being consistent. You're not. What should be said first you said last. What should be said last you said first. What you took so long to think out has been refuted. Your doctrine has been overthrown. You're defeated. Go and try to salvage your doctrine; extricate yourself if you can!' — he abstains from debates such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue."
1. Discussion of political topics is almost always full of negativity, putting down others and their views, while arguing that oneself and one's own views are right, further perpetuating one's egotism. Even the most well-versed long-term Buddhists, who at the same time happen to hold political opinions on X matter or Y, invariably and apparently stoke their ego and become more arrogant than they would otherwise. The Dharma always promotes reducing the view of the self, sending love and compassion to all (including those who you disagree with), and giving the victory to the opponent.
2. Discussion of political topics is never perfectly informed, whenever you support a policy, while you may be well intentioned (which is admirable), you don't really know all of the possible unintended consequences, which not only means you are speaking with greater confidence than you should as a Buddhist, but you will certainly be blameable for supporting a negligent policy in some regard in the future. The Dharma on the otherhand is never blameworthy, and only produces positive results.
3. Discussion of political topics creates enemies out of neutral acquaintances, if you are a self-confessed conservative who meets a self-confessed liberal, or vice versa, you will be more inclined to pass immediate judgement on them. Since everyone tends to believe what they think is right, instinctively you will assume that the person in question holds a wrong view, and that they are thus either stupid or malicious. Moreover, you will tend not to trust the opposing position's information sources, and therefore will be informed according to your own, which will give a naturally biased exposition of the opposing position's views, making you less inclined to be compassionate upon meeting. The teaching of the Tathagatas on the other hand, can be summarised as the abandonment of all views - with no views, there is no opposition, no good and bad, no friend or foe - only pure compassion out of the recognition of the inherently awakened nature of the minds of all beings. The Dharma promotes a default humility and loving kindness, which politics undermines.
4. Discussion of political topics creates disturbing emotions, it is one of the clearest and most obvious expressions of the eight worldly dharmas: letting one's actions be governed by hope or fear for happiness or suffering, fame or insignificance, praise or blame, and gain or loss. It creates debates wherein participants arouse jealousy, which is fundamentally the desire for oneself to win and be seen as superior, and the other person in question to lose and be seen as inferior - it is presupposing that the opposing person does not deserve whatever merit they have. It generates and promotes hostility and sees injustice where it formerly would not have been promoted or seen without such discussion, for even the most insubstantial and abstract reasons, which we call ideology. I have seen some Buddhists who I initially thought were mindful, turn completely red in fits of rage trying to argue for a political position, or in favour of a certain policy. The Dharma promotes patience in the face of adversity, and should stand for nothing short of only praise, unless we are acting in the capacity of a master training someone.
5. Discussion of political topics is not relevant to anything the Buddha said about governance, political debate isn't really skilful, as we were raised to believe, and the Buddha's advice to kings was to them as individual actors who could choose right or wrong actions with their own fruits - political debate is not the same as making a choice in governing. It is also unfounded that there were any republics in the Buddha's time as Romila Thapar has argued, since if you follow her footnotes when she makes such claims, you will see that the sources she uses all rely upon the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, with regards to where the Buddha refers to the Vajjians, who are merely said to assemble and depart in harmony - but which does not say anything about debating political matters, which the Buddha still declared wrong speech, and certainly never results in departing in harmony, which would presuppose that political debate did not in fact occur. Ultimately, governing in accordance with the Dharma means enacting policies that you believe are ethically wholesome: which support the Dharma and the Sangha, which promotes non-violence, but security and not letting crime prevail (DN 26). He also argues that a king should never act out of anger or favouritism, hear all arguments and judge for himself, protect both poor and rich, promote harmony among one's own kingdom and others, and shun foolish and greedy ministers (Ja.V.109).
6. Discussion of political topics is founded in ignorance as regards the Dharma Seals: Not knowing impermanence, people let their emotions about states of affairs at present, or conditions of nations at present, govern their actions, forgetting that from the perspective of kalpas, such states of affairs are insignificant trifles that will come and go like a bubble. It doesn't matter how much you think Obamacare, CO2 or Keystone XL are going to be the end of the world, they just aren't, they are so insignificant, and you will regret wasting time worrying about them when you could have been practising after you look back on your infinite lives when you're standing on the doorstep of Buddhahood. Not knowing suffering, people think that injuries against their egos are real problems, not keeping in mind the fact that real suffering is that of pain, change, and conditional states, all of which result from ignorance. Similarly, 'what suffers' is believed to be important and substantial, rather than the actual removal of ignorance, thus people discussing political matters do not know not-self; people think that what matters are injustices against their groups, ethnicity, nationality, gender, race, person, when what really matters are the injustices we constantly cause to ourselves by denying ourselves an accurate vision of reality. You may be able to talk about the Dharma Seals until you are blue in the face, you may know the history and scholarship behind them, but if you still have hang-ups that are irrelevant in the face of them, you haven't realised them.
7. But if you can't resist engaging in discussion of political topics, be aware that it comes along with downfalls, since we do need some politicians who can try their best to uphold Buddhist values. Sometimes we also must do what conventionally is considered wrong to practice the Bodhisattva path. A better world, even in the short term is not to be denigrated as a bad aim, but to give it greater importance than practice, or to let it guide your actions into doing anything that is in contradiction to the Dharma is a flaw. Being aware of this, one accumulates less demerit:
Miln III.7.8 wrote:The king asked: "Venerable Nagasena, for whom is the greater demerit, one who knowingly does evil, or one who does evil unknowingly?"
The elder replied: "Indeed, your majesty, for him who does evil not knowing is the greater demerit."
"In that case, venerable Nagasena, would we doubly punish one who is our prince or king's chief minister who not knowing does evil?"
"What do you think, your majesty, who would get burned more, one who knowing picks up a hot iron ball, ablaze and glowing, or one who not knowing picks it up?"
"Indeed, venerable sir, he who not knowing picks it up would get burned more."
"Indeed, your majesty, in the same way the greater demerit is for him who does evil not knowing."
"You are clever, venerable Nagasena."