“If we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a president,” President Obama said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Instead of electing a few well-meaning people, the president insisted, “we have to change the system to reflect our better selves,” altering “not just who gets elected, but how they get elected.” Mr. Obama speaks from experience: He promised to be a political change agent in the Oval Office, and, seven years later, the country’s politics are more fractured than when he started. The truth is, as the president also acknowledged Tuesday, “our brand of democracy is hard,” with a certain amount of gridlock built into its system of checks and balances. No magic solution can bridge ideological and cultural rifts. But there are reforms that could help.
One such would be ending “the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around,” as Mr. Obama said. Gerrymandering, in which state lawmakers draw legislative district boundaries to maximize partisan or incumbent advantage, warps Americans’ representation in Washington and in statehouses across the country. Among the most egregious examples are the embarrassingly partisan congressional district maps that Democrats drew in Maryland and Republicans drafted in North Carolina.