SMITH: Exploring what it means to be conservative

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

Are Indiana conservatives in need of a rebuild, reform or perhaps just rebranding? That is the topic we’ll take up in late August at the first-ever, Indiana-centered policy conference, hosted by the Indiana Family Institute’s Andrew Smith Family Prosperity Center and featuring leading conservative voices in the Hoosier state.

Our aim is to convene the brightest minds in politics and thought to come together to cast a vision for the conservative movement in Indiana. In addition to IFI, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks and Americans for Prosperity are co-sponsoring the gathering at the Keystone Crossing Sheraton Hotel on Aug. 26.

Modeled after the highly successful and widely publicized CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) held annually in Washington, D.C., ICON (Indiana Conservative) brings timely and relevant conversation about the implications of policy on our worldview—and vice-versa—to the Hoosier state.

Anticipated as one of the largest gatherings of conservatives in state history, activists, academics, elected officials, social media mavens, philanthropists and other engaged citizens will gather to share ideas about government and society.

The agenda is still being shaped at this writing, but invited guests include Vice President Mike Pence (whose departure from Indiana, in part, prompts the need for this gathering); U.S. Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott and James Lankford; U.S. Reps. Louie Gohmert and Marsha Blackburn; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson; Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin; Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and many more.

The charge we’ve issued to all the participants is to help craft a vision for the conservative movement in our state. In some areas, we have solid successes to build upon. In other areas, the jury is still out. In some cases, conservatives have been largely missing from the debate.

Key topics include how to maintain our distinctiveness when the super-majority Republican Indiana General Assembly passes 45 tax and fee increases in a single session, including a $1 billion annual gasoline tax; how to effectively speak out against marijuana legalization (here the opposition is to our right, from Libertarians, and the left); and the role, if any, of community and faith-based organizations in fighting the scourge of opioid addiction.

Our time together at this first conference will be successful if, first, we better know and can work with like-minded folks across the state; second, we establish a sense of the top two or three key needs for Indiana; and finally, begin to develop something approaching a consensus on how to respond.

To achieve even these preliminary goals, we’ll need to understand the state of modern conservatism. With an unorthodox president who escapes traditional political descriptions of “right” or “left,” “conservative” or “liberal,” the question is by no means confined to Indiana. With Congress largely paralyzed by the nation’s divisions, it, too, is not going to provide thought leadership.

So the opportunity is for a committed group of policy professionals to develop and advance a conservative governing agenda that captures the imagination of our fellow citizens while improving their lives.

IFI will take interested participants deeper into the Family Prosperity Index we are developing with the American Conservative Union. Others will outline better tax policies, the wise use of vouchers and charter schools as a tool for true education reform, and public-private partnerships to create the workforce Indiana needs today to be economically successful tomorrow.

Watch our website ( for details and plan now to join us on Aug. 26 for the first-ever ICON conference.•


Smith is president of the Indiana Family Institute and author of “Deicide: Why Eliminating The Deity is Destroying America.” Send comments

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