In 1924, Dr. Lawrence Nixon attempted to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary, knowing that Texas state law forbade a black man like himself from voting in the election. When election officials turned him away, Nixon responded: "I've got to try.'

Beto  O'Rourke grew up in the south Texas border town of El Paso, TX, where he witnessed firsthand attempts to prevent African Americans, Mexican Americans, and other minorities from participating in the democratic process. In his 2022 book "We've Got to Try," O'Rourke documents the history of Texas voter suppression, beginning in the days following the Civil War.

Racist politicians, the Ku Klux Klan, and other proponents of white supremacy instituted poll taxes, closed polling places, limited voting hours in selected neighborhoods, and redrew districts to make it harder for some citizens to vote. The aggressors enhanced their efforts through intimidation, assault, and murder. These tactics were effective in limiting voter turnout among some segments of the population.

Laws were often ineffective in fighting institutional racism. When the Fifteenth Amendment banned slavery, it contained a loophole allowing forced labor of prisoners. Texans increased the arrest rate of young black men, which continued to provide free labor to former slaveholders. President Lyndon Johnson (a Texas native) signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, which should have ended these policies, but those in power frequently ignored or skirted this law.

Although O'Rourke focused this book on Texas, the lessons are applicable across the United States. Worse, people continue to use these methods today. He includes two chapters on proposed integration reform, pointing out how xenophobia and stoking the fear of "others" is a powerful way to convince voters to maintain the status quo.

Despite publishing this during his campaign for Governor, this is far from a "Campaign Biography." Instead, O'Rourke focuses on educating the reader about an essential part of Texan and American history.

"We've Got to Try" remains relevant today. A failed presidential candidate recently inspired his supporters to attempt a violent coup on the US Capitol following his election loss, and some states are passing laws to punish teachers who point out racist activities in our country's history. Our first step in combatting discrimination is to recognize when and where it has occurred in the past.