PRO Michigan's Electoral College split: A return to relevancy

Michigan deserves a louder voice in presidential elections

Every four years voters in the United States get their chance to choose who will be the next leader of our great nation. On that first Tuesday in November, these men and women will go to their polling places and decide which candidate they most support. All of this follows months – sometimes years – of speeches, town halls, debates, advertisements and rallies.

However, due to the way our country elects its president, many voters, including those in Michigan, are passed over and not viewed as part of the “road to the White House.” Because of this, Michigan is forced to watch these candidates from afar as they dart across the country to states like Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada, meeting with local residents, businesses and elected officials to discuss issues affecting their states.

What’s preventing Michigan, and most of the other states, from having the same influence over presidential elections as the five other states mentioned above? Simply put, while the winner-take-all Electoral College allocation has worked for some states, it has prevented Michigan from being competitive in presidential elections for decades. Since Michigan is viewed as uncompetitive, candidates do not see a reason to spend time connecting with Michigan voters and speaking to issues that are most important for our state.

What can be done to make Michigan a more competitive state for these elections? My current plan – HB 5974 – puts more electoral votes in play for the candidates, rewarding candidates who put in the effort to earn more votes from our state while creating electoral consequences for candidates who choose to forgo Michigan during their campaign.

One of the main criticisms this bill has received so far is the logical fallacy that the winner of our state receiving fewer electoral votes will diminish our impact and create even less of an incentive for candidates to spend time here. While logic would say more electoral votes equals more incentive to visit here, that has proven to not be the case here in Michigan.

Of the states listed above, only Ohio has more electoral votes than Michigan; in fact, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada have the same number of electoral votes combined as Michigan, yet during the last election cycle each state was visited by the presidential campaigns more than Michigan in the final five months of the campaign. Out of those three states, Nevada had the fewest visits during the last five months preceding the election, and they still had double the amount of Michigan. Even Colorado, a state which has seven fewer electoral votes than Michigan, received a significantly larger number of visits from presidential candidates.

What’s more, critics have been using faulty math when discussing the plan. One such example is that the plan would only put two to four electoral votes up for grabs in Michigan. However, this is simply not the case. For example, if the plan was in effect for the 2012 election, we would’ve seen a 12-4 split, rather than all 16 going to the winner. While this may not look like much, in reality that is an eight-vote swing, offering more influence than Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada. Even in the 2008 election, this plan would have created a six-vote swing, equal to the number of votes up for grabs in Iowa and Nevada and still more than New Hampshire.

The simple fact here is the winner-take-all system for allocating Michigan’s electoral votes doesn’t work for our voters. Michigan is an incredibly diverse state, and our issues need to receive more attention than they currently get from presidential candidates. We can’t continue to be a state candidates feel they can skip on their way to 270 electoral votes. This proposal is a good way to get these candidates to spend time in Michigan, raising the national profile of our great state and garnering more national attention for the issues affecting us every day.

We don’t have to sit on the sidelines while other states get the kind of focus and attention on their issues that we deserve as well. It’s time to tell presidential candidates what we already know: Michigan matters, and this proposal will lend a louder voice to voters in this state during presidential elections.

CON Michigan's Electoral College split: A spiteful rule change

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Fri, 12/12/2014 - 2:42pm
I have a modest suggestion: why not make this reform contingent on its adoption in, say, North Carolina? Propose an interstate compact -- Michigan will reform its electoral vote allocation system if, and only if, North Carolina adopts the same plan. That should go a long way toward mollifying Democratic concerns about which party this reform would advantage in presidential elections.
Rosemary Edgar
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 2:53pm
Seems to me that this is another way to minimize the effect of democrat votes. As far as I can tell, this is a republican initiative designed to split up electoral college votes from democrat majority states, while maintaining the winner take all system for republican majority states. When partisan redistricting guarantees a republican lock on our state legislature, even if overall votes for democrats are the majority, then I see no reason to weight the scale further in republican favor.
Chuck Lockwood
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:45am
Seems? Blatantly obvious.
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 6:54pm
All this amounts to is this: If you can't win fairly, stack the deck. The candidate who wins the popular vote in Michigan, as Obama easily did in 2012, should get the state's electoral votes.
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 2:18pm
Any state that enacts the proportional approach on its own would reduce its own influence. This was the most telling argument that caused Colorado voters to agree with Republican Governor Owens and to reject this proposal in November 2004 by a two-to-one margin. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson argued that Virginia should switch to the statewide winner-take-all system because of the political disadvantage suffered by states that divided their electoral votes in a political environment in which other states used the winner-take-all approach: “while 10. states chuse either by their legislatures or by a general ticket [winner-take-all], it is folly & worse than folly for the other 6. not to do it.” [Spelling and punctuation as per original] The now-prevailing statewide winner-take-all system became entrenched in the political landscape in the 1830s precisely because dividing a state’s electoral votes diminishes the state’s political influence relative to states employing the statewide winner-take-all approach.
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 2:19pm
If states were to ever start adopting the whole-number proportional approach on a piecemeal basis, each additional state adopting the approach would increase the influence of the remaining states and thereby would decrease the incentive of the remaining states to adopt it. Thus, a state-by-state process of adopting the whole-number proportional approach would quickly bring itself to a halt, leaving the states that adopted it with only minimal influence in presidential elections. The proportional method also easily could result in no candidate winning the needed majority of 270 electoral votes. That would throw the process into Congress to decide the election, regardless of the popular vote in any state or throughout the country. If the whole-number proportional approach had been in use throughout the country in the nation’s closest recent presidential election (2000), it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. Instead, the result would have been a tie of 269–269 in the electoral vote, even though Al Gore led by 537,179 popular votes across the nation. The presidential election would have been thrown into Congress to decide and resulted in the election of the second-place candidate in terms of the national popular vote. A system in which electoral votes are divided proportionally by state would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote and would not make every voter equal. It would penalize fast-growing states that do not receive any increase in their number of electoral votes until after the next federal census. It would penalize states with high voter turnout (e.g., Utah, Oregon). Moreover, the fractional proportional allocation approach, which would require a constitutional amendment, does not assure election of the winner of the nationwide popular vote. In 2000, for example, it would have resulted in the election of the second-place candidate. A national popular vote is the way to make every person's vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 2:22pm
Now, Republican legislators who want to split state electoral votes in states that have recently voted Democratic in presidential elections, do not want to split electoral votes in states that recently voted Republican in presidential elections. Current attempts by some GOP legislators to affect the 2016 presidential election by dividing the electoral college votes of Michigan (and only some other Republican controlled states that have recently voted Democratic in presidential elections) " . . . can initially seem reasonable, even to progressives, many of whom are wary of the electoral college system. But this isn't a good-government plan to change the way our presidential elections are conducted. It's a targeted plot to get more electoral votes for Republicans, even when they're losing the popular vote. It's no coincidence that these plans have often been quietly introduced in lame duck sessions, when voters are paying less attention. These measures, if allowed to be passed quickly in a few states with little debate and attention, could have national implications and change American political history.” – Michael B. Keegan, PFAW Obvious partisan machinations like Lund's should add support for the National Popular Vote movement. If the party in control in each state is tempted every 2, 4, or 10 years (post-census) to consider rewriting election laws and redistrict with an eye to the likely politically beneficial effects for their party in the next presidential election, then the National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and equal, is needed now more than ever. There’s a petition against the attempt now in Michigan (and only in other Republican controlled states that have recently voted Democratic in presidential elections) to rig the Electoral College To Make Sure Every Vote Counts
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 2:25pm
As recently as December 11, 2008, The Michigan House of Representatives passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 65-36 margin, with 46 Democrats and 19 Republicans A survey of Michigan voters showed 73% overall support for a national popular vote for President. Support was 73% among independents, 78% among Democrats, and 68% among Republicans. By age, support was 77% among 18-29 year olds, 67% among 30-45 year olds, 74% among 46-65 year olds, and 75% for those older than 65. By gender, support was 86% among women and 59% among men. In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In virtually every of the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 70-80% range or higher. – in recent or past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win. The National Popular Vote bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states (including Michigan in 2008) with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect. NationalPopularVote
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 2:28pm
Lund's bill would increase the probability of a candidate winning the presidency without winning the most votes in the country. Lund's bill would not allow for any electoral votes for candidates beyond the top 2 winners in Michigan. Every vote would not count, would not matter, and would not be equal. States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes. Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states, like Michigan, that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions. The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states. The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founders. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founders in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 12:42am
I am trying to figure out why Rep. Lund cares. Does he want more political campaign money spent in our state, does he want more campaign visits, does he think it will add jobs, does he think it will change how Michigan is precieved in DC, does he expect it to change what Michigan? If Rep. Lund doesn't changing anything changing for MIchigan then why change? Change for change sake will cause more unintended consequences then we want.
Chuck Lockwood
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:47am
If it were possible to track bribery, Lund's motivation would probably be quite obvious. Hagstrom? Americans for Prosperity? Someone had to buy his altruism.
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 10:57pm
Chuck, Please don't make comments that could be misconstrued to suggest an illicit activity has happened. I believe that the people who seek public office do it with the idea that they will contribute to the community, are honorable, and well intended. I trust Rep. Lund and believe he is honest and well meaning.
Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:38pm
While no illegal motivation for Rep Lund's proposal should be assumed, it is clear his motive is not what he stated. Knowledgeable people who have studied the issue, and who Rep Lund is undoubtedly aware, are of the opinion that instead of increasing attention during a presidential campaign, a state that splits its vote is less attractive because what is at stake is a handful of electoral votes rather than all of the votes that state has to award. Thus, the conspiracy theory, where Republicans such as Lund want to rig presidential elections by splitting the votes in states usually going Democratic in presidential elections while keeping Republican states winner-take-all, seems more likely.
Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:02pm
David, It seems that what Rep. Lund is supporting has support, at least in other States, by Democrats so I am hard pressed to see it as a partisan or individual conspiracy. I think people way what they believe, and that leaves it for the rest of us to think through the issue. I will offer that with the current system Michigan has not gained any special considerations. By the same token, I have see no reason to believe that a change in the system will provide any better considerations for Michigan in DC. That takes me back to my view if you can't measure the results of a change then don't make the change.
Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:43am
Duane Please give us those states where the democrats are doing the same thing as you say.
Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:58pm
Doug, My understanding that there is an effort by many states (Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, Vermont, California) which have have formally supported the National Popular Vote Initiative. NPVI is to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote for the President. That seems to be a national version of what is being proposed in Michigan. As best I can tell many of those states are in Democrat controlled. That is what led me to believe that proportional or popular voting for the President was not exclusively a Republican issue. I could understand that you might disagree with my view. What I would be interested in is how if a controlling party within a state has voted to replace the current Electoral College voting process with a popular vote based system whether it is a state system or a national system the purpose isn't the same and the support for that change in system isn't equivalent My understanding is that the NPVI has to have an at least 270 Elcetoral votes to be implemented (I am quite possibly wrong) and what is proposed for Michigan only need pass in the state and would only apply to Michigan, but they both use the popluar vote for Presidential selection. If this does not answer your question, please be more specific in what you are wanting to know.
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 8:49am
I'd be for this proposal if the districts weren't gerrymandered -- which already gives Republicans electoral advantage. Just look at the last election.
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:02am
It's 2000. The country has just voted for president. One person got a sliver a majority of total votes cast. Both candidates were just under the required total of electoral votes. One state was left to report, with hanging chads, and some committee trying to figure out a voters intent on a not so correctly marked ballot. The case made it all the way to the supreme court, and eventually one of the candidates won. Of course the losing party proclaimed that their candidate should have won because he had a higher total vote count. Whichever party perceives itself as the losing party will always want change. My opinion is that change is OK, as long as every state in the union abides by the change. Winner take all (our current system) or popular vote winner seems to be the best system to eliminate attempts to rig the election. Whatever system we have, every state in the nation should have the same rules.
Lola Johnson
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:50am
With the media overlay in this country, visiting each state is no longer necessary, other than to raise the visibility and intraparty power of that state's pols. We would be fools to fall for this baloney.
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 5:26pm
The indefensible reality is that more than 99% of campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was showered on voters in just ten states in 2012- and that in today's political climate, the swing states have become increasingly fewer and fixed. Where you live determines how much, if at all, your vote matters. The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, will not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win. 10 of the original 13 states are ignored now. Four out of five Americans were ignored in the 2012 presidential election. After being nominated, Obama visited just eight closely divided battleground states, and Romney visited only 10. These 10 states accounted for 98% of the $940 million spent on campaign advertising. They decided the election. Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). None of the 10 most rural states mattered, as usual. About 80% of the country was ignored --including 24 of the 27 lowest population and medium-small states, and 13 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. It was more obscene than the 2008 campaign, when candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states. 80% of the states and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That's more than 85 million voters, more than 240 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most. The number and population of battleground states is shrinking. During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states. The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, in 2012 did not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. 10 of the original 13 states are ignored now. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind. 80% of the states and people were just spectators to the presidential election. That's more than 85 million voters, more than 200 million Americans. Charlie Cook reported in 2004: “Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out yesterday that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [in the then] 18 battleground states.” [only 10 in 2012] Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009: “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.” Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing. State-by-state winner-take-all laws adversely affect governance. Sitting Presidents (whether contemplating their own re-election or the election of their preferred successor) pay inordinate attention to the interests of “battleground” states. ** “Battleground” states receive over 7% more grants than other states. ** “Battleground” states receive 5% more grant dollars. ** A “battleground” state can expect to receive twice as many presidential disaster declarations as an uncompetitive state. ** The locations of Superfund enforcement actions also reflect a state’s battleground status. ** Federal exemptions from the No Child Left Behind law have been characterized as “‘no swing state left behind.” The effect of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system on governance is discussed at length in Presidential Pork by Dr. John Hudak of the Brookings Institution. Compare the response to hurricane Katrina (in Louisiana, a "safe" state) to the federal response to hurricanes in Florida (a "swing" state) under Presidents of both parties. President Obama took more interest in the BP oil spill, once it reached Florida's shores, after it had first reached Louisiana. Some pandering policy examples include ethanol subsidies, Steel Tariffs, and Medicare Part D. Policies not given priority, include those most important to non-battleground states - like water issues in the west Since World War II, a shift of a few thousand votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 1:35pm
Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive." In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state. The Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution permit states to conduct elections in varied ways. The National Popular Vote compact is patterned directly after existing federal law and preserves state control of elections. The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College. The candidate with the most votes would win, as in virtually every other election in the country. Under National Popular Vote, every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. When states with a combined total of at least 270 Electoral College votes enact the bill, the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the needed majority of 270+ Electoral College votes from the enacting states. The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes and the majority of Electoral College votes.
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 7:42pm
We are long over due to go to a national popular vote and drop the Electoral College all together. We do not need more Florida's and Supreme Court decisions electing the president. Without the Electoral College we could finally end the embargo with Cuba that the Florida vote controls. Everyone knows in this day and age that it is a ridiculous policy to continue and only prolongs the current regime that would be gone in a short time without it. Further is would help to reduce the influence of "Big Money" if they had to spend nationwide instead of in the most influential Electoral College states.
Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:08pm
Peter Lund should just have the guts to say what is REALLY is trying to accomplish - rigging Michigan for Republicans favor...He knows full well that a GOP candiate has not won the state since 1988, and he figures this is the best way to chop of a few EV's for the Republican candiate, and if its a close election (ie; 2000) it could sway the entire race.... To say the state will be more relevant is a lie and Lund knows it....Now, the state is competitive since both parties are fighting for all 16 EV's...No candiate is going to come to MI. to fight for bits and pieces of districts, if you award EV's by his plan...Both Obama and Romney held campaign events in MI in 2012, and plenty of money was spent on advertising as well.... Lund's plan takes a defeatist attitude, which is odd since MI just re-elected a Republican governor..I guess MI Republicans still have no confidence in winning presidential elections without rigging the system...Lund's absurd plan would be no different than if a father went to his son's Little League Baseball offices and said to effect "My son isn't very good at baseball, he tries real hard but just can't hit the pitching...I propose giving him 5 strikes instead of 3 so as to allow him more chances"..So whether its the electoral college or baseball, rigging a game for the benefit of only one of the parties is still rigging....
Sat, 01/10/2015 - 4:00pm
Let's not look at this politically. How is winner-take-all more representative of Michigan's voting population than splitting the electoral votes? The two-party system in the U.S. is dissolving. Liberals (most of whom vote only to secure their rights to gay marriage, smoking pot, and abortions) are taking over and the country is going downhill as a result. If the average liberal voter voted based on a real knowledge of politics, government, and economics, a candidate like Mitt Romney would have made much more sense. Even Democrats agree that Romney would have been better for the economy than Obama, and with Obama's foreign policy a mystery to this day, we would have been better off with a Republican running the show there too. In what way does legalizing marijuana, raising taxes, increasing regulation, reducing gun rights, and weakening the military help the United States of America? Would Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln have supported any of those things? Hell no. What about raising minimum wage so that small businesses have to layoff more workers? Raising minimum wage raises prices and causes people to get either dropped or reduced to part-time. Why should everyone that makes minimum wage get a pay raise for doing minimum wage jobs? Let's keep it real. America was stronger as a nation before the ultra-liberal Obama became President. When terrorists attacked us what did we do? We went in and fought them on their soil. ISIS is a far larger threat than Al Qaeda and they are what they are: Muslims. A strong leader of a strong nation would have already said something along the lines of: "We will not tolerate terrorism in any way, shape, or form, and we will respond to any acts of terror with swift and resolute action."