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ACU Chairman Al Cardenas and his board of directors will continue to make policy, “but I will contribute to policy,” he added. “The executive director has to be both a manager and somebody passionate about freedom. You can’t simply be the guy who signs the check stubs and make sure people are taking vacation time appropriately. You have got to be able to motivate the staff.”

Mr. Schneider’s intellectual leanings made it natural at one point in his career that he served as general counsel to the National Endowment for the Humanities under Chairman Bruce Cole, a conservative favorite. Mr. Schneider said his conservatism began with Enlightenment philosophers John Locke and Edmund Burke.

“Locke was the first to articulate the three pillars of freedom: life, liberty and property,” he said. “Our religious liberty, the primacy of the governed over the government and the right to possess the fruits of our labor, find their intellectual voice in Locke’s theory of individual rights.”

Mr. Schneider said those “core rights” provided anchor points that made sense to him as a teenager when he struggled to define his political instincts.

“But Locke alone couldn’t define the identity of the individual in society,” he said. “Burke helped me understand where the soul of man fits in. He loathed tyranny and supported the American Revolution, but he also articulated the necessary tension between liberty and authority as well as the importance of holding to principles over gaining political advantage.”

In other words, “principle over politics” — exactly what the American Conservative Union has been preaching since its founding 49 years ago.