The Purge of
As early as the "harmony conference" of June 1937, when Jimmy Byrnes and Pat Harrison sat under the apple tree with Franklin Roosevelt at the Jefferson Islands Club, Harold Ickes had speculated in his diary on the possible disintegration of the Democratic party. "It may be that the Democratic Party may split," Ickes wrote, "with the conservatives joining with the Republicans to form a new party, leaving the Democratic Party as the progressive party of the country." Harry Hopkins was thinking the same, and over the winter of 1937-38 Ickes and other like-minded advisers to Roosevelt met at Hopkins' house in Georgetown to discuss how this seemingly inevitable split in the Democratic party could be put to the advantage of the New Nationalism liberals in the administration. The strategy that this group began to urge upon FDR during the months following the court fight was for the White House to strike first and "purge" the Democratic party of conservative incumbents. Their plan was for Roosevelt to campaign for the defeat of selected conservatives in the 1938 Democratic primaries.
The plan, like FDR's court bill, was certain to be called audacious. For a president to back candidates to run against incumbents of his own party