Today, Democrats could settle once and for all the increasingly divisive dispute between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over seating Florida and Michigan delegates at this summer's convention. With the acquiescence of both candidates and a wise decision by the Democratic Party's rules committee, this self-inflicted wound could begin to heal and the party could turn to a unifying convention and the coming battle with Republican John McCain. But this is the Democratic Party, and the chance of a tidy resolution is probably remote.
The Democratic National Committee stripped both Florida and Michigan of their delegates after those states moved up their presidential primaries in defiance of party rules. Both Obama and Clinton agreed not to campaign in the two states, and Obama even took his name off the Michigan ballot.
So under any standard of fair play, those results aren't valid. Yet party elders now understand that failing to seat 366 delegates from two important swing states is politically risky. Meanwhile, Clinton (who won the most votes in both states) has made compromise difficult by insisting the votes be recorded as cast, even though she admitted last fall that the Michigan primary was "not going to count for anything."
The party's legal experts have proposed a reasonable solution — to restore half of the Florida and Michigan delegate votes — that the rules committee should consider. How those votes should be split between the candidates remains to be resolved.
Perhaps Clinton should get a portion of the reduced number of Florida delegates that reflects the popular vote. That same argument in Michigan makes no sense, however. Obama shouldn't be penalized so severely for playing by the his party's rules.
The DNC and its chairman, Howard Dean, bear the responsibility for creating this mess and for ending it. Even if the rules committee comes up with an equitable solution today, Clinton could fight it all the way to the convention floor. If she cares for her party, she will give up the fight and accept reality.