Adriana E. Ramírez: Donald Trump can't and won't ever admit he's wrong

Adriana E. Ramírez, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Op Eds

Former President Donald Trump cannot admit that he lost the 2020 election. He cannot, will not and has no reason to ever admit the truth, because to admit defeat would be to become a loser. And men like Mr. Trump cannot stand to lose.

Last Friday, at a rally in Minnesota, Mr. Trump claimed a previous electoral victory in the Gopher State, noting that “I know we won it in 2020.” Minnesota? Really? A state that Democrats have carried since 1976? A state that even the most Trump-friendly news outlets never called in his favor? Minnesota?

Two days earlier, on Minnesota Public Radio, he made the same claim, saying “I thought I won in 2020 easily.” What? It seemed that Mr. Trump, who originally contested the results of the 2020 election in a handful of states including Georgia and Arizona, has expanded the reach of his Big Lie to states that he lost by well over 200,000 votes.

Rather than admit in the face of endlessly mounting evidence that he was wrong and concede his defeat, Mr. Trump seems to be doubling down on the victory in his own head. In Mr. Trump’s estimation, he actually won every state, all of them, if only it hadn’t been for those pesky election officials.

And if he cannot admit he is wrong, why not double down on being more right, no matter how absurd the claim?

Mr. Trump will probably soon declare he also won Washington, D.C., where he received only 5.4% of the vote.

Being accountable used to be cool, or maybe that’s something the adults in my life told me as a child to make me more accountable. These days, in the public square we call the internet, to admit a mistake is viewed, wrongly, as agreeing to weakness.

There is a lot of psychology behind why we cannot admit we are wrong. I spoke to a local professor of psychology, who was quick to answer, “that’s all about ego, about a person’s sense of self.”

She explained that for some people, acknowledging wrongness is so antithetical to their perception of themselves, that their brains will actually not let them accept even the most obvious of truths. The brain will rewrite history, introduce conspiracy and deploy whatever other defense mechanisms the mind can conceive of in order to technically never be incorrect.

It’s amazing and beautiful how our bodies will protect us. But it’s also tearing apart any notions of civility between us that still exist.

And oftentimes, the exact people who cannot admit when they are wrong are the first to call it a weakness when others do. I’ve seen enough private apologies between two individuals screenshotted and shared on social media to understand that for some fragile egos, any admission of fault is viewed as an admission of debility, when it’s the exact opposite.


The psychologist told me that people are often shamed for accountability, or believe they will be, and that’s enough to keep them from trying. Being shamed is worse than whatever mistake was committed in the first place.

Most of us will eventually run up against the wall. My 6-year-old tried to lie about drinking my juice one morning, cranberry stains on his lips, my cup before him. But the truth could not be denied and when he finally admitted to lying, we were all the better for it.

“How we apologize reveals a lot about us,” the psychologist told me. “Someone who is psychologically fragile will think they are strong for standing their ground, but they are showing fragility. A ‘stronger’ person would endure the shame of defeat. A ‘weaker’ person would prefer to change the truth over ever having to admit they were wrong.”

In Mr. Trump’s case, there are other circumstances. Maintaining his lie has been a financially sound decision, as he sells his version of reality to his donors, who keep funding his political and legal operations. And until he runs into the wall that is a legal conviction, there has been little reason for him to do or say otherwise. His brand is winning, and anything that cops to losing would be obviously off-brand.

But for the people who believe that the election was stolen, there’s something else at stake. If Mr. Trump is wrong about this, it opens up their entire worldview to the possibility that he is (and, in turn, they are) wrong about other things — and that’s earth-shattering. Imagine a world in which Mr. Trump admits his mistake. What would that do to his followers? What would that do to him?

He can’t do it. There are reasons to like Mr. Trump; there are reasons to hate him. But regarding his inability to admit he lost the 2020 election, I just feel sorry for him. It must be hard to carry so many lies in his head. It must be hard to forget exactly which states he actually lost, and which ones he only carried in his imagination — like Minnesota.


Adriana E. Ramírez, author of “Dead Boys,” is a columnist and InReview editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


©2024 PG Publishing Co. Visit at post-gazette.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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