Cover Image: We've Got to Try

We've Got to Try

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Member Reviews

I love the title of this book to start. It doesn't make bold promises, it is just the idea that we need to try to do better as a nation. We have to want to do try and do better. Beto is absolutely inspirational. And this book was nothing short of that.
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In We've Got To Try, Beto O'Rourke shares a bit of Texas' history with voter suppression & voter rights.  In today's current political climate, this topic is so needed.  I was not familiar with many of the historical elements of this book so it was quire informative for me.  I enjoyed reading this book.  O'Rourke approached the subject in a neutral, non-bashing manner.
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I thought this book was fine. It did a nice job laying out specific stakes for our elections, specifically in Texas. It was thankfully not nearly as self serving as other political memoirs/books and framed it as more of a question about democracy than a referendum on O'Rourke himself. This is obviously marketed to a potential Texas voter but has some universal lessons to be learned for all voters.
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It surprised me to see that Beto O'Rourke would publish a book so close to a high-stakes election that isn't a memoir, but the message in this book goes beyond building support for Beto himself. Rather, it makes the case for strengthening a movement to secure and regain voting rights, while sharing the work that Beto has been doing to advance this cause. The research into the history of voting rights in Texas is told in an engaging tone, and he is continually tying that legacy back to the obstacles faced by would-be voters today. It's a pep talk for those who need it, while also conveying an important history that may not be well-taught in schools. I would recommend this for anyone invested in the state of American democracy, whether they have ties to Texas or not.
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When I saw the title of Beto O’Rourke’s new book, We’ve Got to Try, I thought, “yes, exactly! What are we trying?” We are trying to save democracy by rescuing voting rights from people who want to suppress it. That’s important, right? I think it’s important. I think it’s important to try and keep trying especially when success isn’t guaranteed. In We’ve Got to Try: How the Fight for Voting Rights Makes Everything Else Possible, O’Rourke is telling the stories of the people who fought for voting rights in Texas since the end of the Civil War. The people whose stories he is telling are regular citizens who should not have had to fight in order to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.

I was born, raised and educated through high school in Texas. I thought I had a good education. Of the history that Beto talks about, I learned almost none of it in school. I probably learned more about Reconstruction from yearly viewings of Gone With the Wind, than I did from my public schools.  Without context, those viewings of GWtW certainly gave me the idea that the Civil War and Reconstruction happened somewhere else in a time disconnected from my life. I am appalled by the history I did not learn, but also heartened by the long tradition of fighting for the right to vote. Without all citizens having the right to vote, none of our rights are safe.

We’ve Got to Try is focused on Texans and Texas history, but what happens here impacts the nation. I suspect Texas isn’t alone in glossing over the struggles of Black and Brown communities in public school history lessons. I hope that readers inside and outside of Texas will read this and commit to working to regain  or protect voting rights in their area. This is a local, State, and Federal issue, but there won’t be Federal action without local movements. Even if you feel secure where you are, please support voting rights organizations that are doing the work in places where our right to vote is being suppressed.

We must embrace the challenges before us. Because our democracy, which makes everything that is essential to this country possible, is on the line. And while the outcome of the fight before us might be uncertain, we know one thing for sure. We’ve got to try.
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WE'VE GOT TO TRY by Beto O'Rourke, candidate for Texas governor and head of Powered by People, outlines "How the Fight for Voting Rights Makes Everything Else Possible." He begins with a chilling story of racially motivated attempts to steal or destroy ballots in November, 1886. Hard to believe that Texas is still seeking to restrict voting rights by limiting the use of mail-in ballots, closing polling locations (more than 750 since 2013), and gerrymandering. O'Rourke argues that "The lessons of our history clearly show us that fair elections ... have always been the exception, not the rule" and that even with the protection of federal laws, that "Texas was found in violation of the [1965] Voting Rights Act in every decade following its signing." Throughout this text, he relies on history, profiling courageous and inspiring historical examples like Ida B. Wells, Septima Clark, and Bob Moses. Multiple chapters are devoted to the story of Lawrence Nixon, an active El Paso community member who was not allowed to vote in the July, 1924 primary election due to a newly enacted state statute that prohibited participation by Black citizens. O'Rourke profiles a half dozen counties in Texas and many sections are difficult to read – from atrocities like a mass hanging in Gainesville to the modern day (2017) playing of Dixie and naming of public schools for Confederate soldiers. Statewide, he notes that "roughly 20 percent of the state's thirty million people don't have health insurance" and Texas is one of the few states to reject Medicaid expansion. In recounting events and their consequences, O'Rourke is able to take a more objective tone and a significant portion of WE'VE GOT TO TRY is devoted to Notes for primary sources and supporting statistics. Many of the details will surprise new arrivals to Texas as well as some long-time residents, all of whom deserve the right to vote.

O'Rourke points out that "turning outrage into action is key." A relatively new political action committee that is trying is Mothers Against Greg Abbott, a Texas group fighting for Texas families, for voting rights, and against book bans. Here's some background on the organization:
         embedded video - link below
Ads feature Texan friends and neighbors as well as former governor Ann Richards' daughter. The recent one, titled "Whose Choice" and supporting reproductive rights, has definitely generated attention in the national media. 

https://mothersagainstgregabbott.com/ 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkWHbrI87Kc  - embedded video 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lf1YxHpOvF4 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ozZESD9e6Y 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxoso-_BqMI&t=58s 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faTNMTVsgAA
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After an unsuccessful run at the presidency in 2016, Beto O’Rourke has concentrated on working to increase voter turnout, primarily in Texas. This important book passionately puts forward s case for why we have to try - to break down barriers, to fight voter suppression, and to convince people that their vote is crucial to our democracy.. one of the biggest takeaways from this book is that nothing that anyone is doing today to suppress the vote is new - and Texas, with its diverse population and proximity to Mexico, has many fascinating cases to explore. O’Rourke’s book is well written and thoroughly researched. Unlike others who talk mainly about what we should do, O’Rourke talks about what has happened and how we can avoid the mistakes of the past. 

One thing I did notice, however, is that there are quite a few editing problems. The most serious is that the way the end notes are done is incorrect. Whoever did the end notes put the numerical marker after the first word in the sentence, not at the end or following the salient point. For example, an end note would read like this: “The (note number) newspaper published an article.” It should be “The newspaper published an article (number)” or, if referring to the newspaper and not the article, “the newspaper (number) published an article.” I don’t know if there is time to get this fixed before publication but I hope so, since it would greatly improve the book’s ability to be taken seriously as a scholarly work.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for this copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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When I hear the name Beto O'Rouke I immediately think of that idiot riding a skateboard into a campaign event, so I had very low expectations for his new book, "We've Got to Try," but I was pleasantly surprised. If you are interested in the history of Black voting rights in the South after emancipation and during Jim Crow, this is a book that you will want to read.
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