Republicans were dealt a stern rebuke by previously supportive suburban voters during the midterm elections, but rather than analyze the losses to determine a wise course forward, conservatives are simply carrying on as usual — and some in the party grow increasingly concerned.
President Trump has brushed aside questions about the loss of the chamber entirely, ridiculing losing incumbents by name, while continuing to demand Congress fund a border wall despite his party losing many of their most diverse districts. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, Republicans swiftly elevated their existing slate of leaders with little debate, signaling a continuation of their existing political strategy.
And neither Speaker Paul D. Ryan nor Representative Kevin McCarthy, the incoming minority leader, have stepped forward to confront why the party’s once-loyal base of suburban supporters abandoned it — and what can be done to win them back.
Part of the problem, some Republicans will acknowledge, is that Trump continues to be popular with the GOP base even though he is turning off suburban supporters.
But now a cadre of Republican lawmakers are speaking out and urging party officials to come to terms with why their 23-seat majority unraveled so spectacularly and Democrats gained the most seats they had since 1974.
“There has been close to no introspection in the G.O.P. conference and really no coming to grips with the shifting demographics that get to why we lost those seats,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, an upstate New York Republican who is planning to repurpose her political action committee to help Republican women win primaries in 2020. “I’m very frustrated and I know other members are frustrated.”
Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, who is retiring at 48, said “the party is Trump” now.Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, also retiring, also pointed to Trump as the reason for such harsh losses, as well as the reason no one wants to talk about it:
“It’s clear to me why we lost 40 seats; it was a referendum on the president, but that’s an extremely difficult proclamation for people to make because if they were to say that they’d get the wrath of the president.”
House Republican women told the Times that party leadership still has not realized how important diversity is to the GOP if it wishes to remain relevant.
“If we don’t learn some lessons from this election we will not be a majority party,” said Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri, who represents suburban St. Louis, calling for a caucus that “looks more like America.”
The House’s longest-serving Republican woman, who is set to retire, is not holding her breath while waiting for the party to change.
An outspoken critic of Mr. Trump who has represented Miami since 1989, [Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen noted that previous party autopsies, like the one after its 2012 presidential loss urging more outreach to women and minorities, only “lasted a New York minute.”
Turning to walk into the House chamber to cast one of her final votes this week, she noted that many of her remaining colleagues hail from overwhelmingly conservative districts.
“Where they stand is how they see the world,” Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said. “And the world is not their congressional district. But that’s who’s left. So they’re all dug in. I don’t expect many changes.”