Opinion writer
For 16 months, Washington Post columnists and contributors have been making the case against Donald Trump. (Adriana Usero,Julio Negron/The Washington Post)

Even before the past 24 hours (more about that in a minute), we found perplexing those conservatives who insisted that Donald Trump was preferable to Hillary Clinton. Trump, after all, has threatened to lock up his opponent, order the military to commit war crimes and “open up” libel laws so that he can go after media outlets. He is plainly opposed to entitlement reform. If your sole concern were the size of government and the debt, Trump still would be worse. His fiscal plans, such as they are, would add $5.3 trillion to the debt. Moreover, if one is concerned about misuse of the instruments of government, it is hard to imagine anyone worse than a paranoid, conspiratorialist narcissist who lashes out at enemies, converting criticisms of his utterances into evidence of treachery.

You say Clinton is untrustworthy? Trump — who regularly lies not only about himself but also about easily provable facts — is surely less honest; indeed, he increasingly seems divorced from reality. The Post reported:

Speaking at an afternoon rally in Ocala, Fla., Trump continued his verbal assault against House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Monday that he would no longer campaign with Trump or defend him. The GOP nominee bragged about his performance in Sunday’s debate and voiced disappointment that Ryan’s reaction to it wasn’t warmer.

“Wouldn’t you think that Paul Ryan would call and say, ‘Good going’?” Trump asked the crowd.

Then, without evidence, he seemed to accuse Ryan and Republicans of a larger conspiracy against him. He vowed to get to the bottom of it.

“There’s a whole deal going on — we’re going to figure it out. I always figure things out. But there’s a whole sinister deal going on,” he said.

Antagonism toward Clinton on the right, of course, has become a knew-jerk reaction, a reflexive way of identifying oneself as conservative. Like global warming, Clinton hatred is for many on the right less the product of analysis than of antagonism toward the mainstream media, universities and popular culture. Is it partly sexism? Perhaps, but Clinton hatred has become cartoonish, resting on half-truths and unproven allegations presented as fact (e.g. Juanita Broaddrick claiming Clinton “threatened” her).

Libertarians, less affected by the right-wing toxic brew oozing from talk radio and Fox News, have taken a much more analytical approach in assessing the two candidates.

Over at Reason magazine, Matt Welch is supporting Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson but had no doubt as to the worst person on the ticket:

On policy alone, he wants a bigger infrastructure stimulus/boondoggle than Hillary Clinton, wants to do a considerably more thorough job of dismantling the global tariff-reduction system, is much more explicit about punishing American companies who would dare to move their businesses overseas, and would mount up an even larger and more dangerous pile of national debt. He also has supported deporting an estimated 4 million U.S. citizens, ripping up the international visa/travel system, and establishing a religious test for travel to America. He’s an ignoramus about basic policy facts, lies even more readily than Clinton (and that’s saying something), and has introduced a National Front-style politics that I naively thought would never stick on U.S. soil.

We find that argument entirely compelling, as we do Dave Barry’s argument that Trump is the greater of two evils “because he is insane. I’m not saying he would be our first insane president, but he would be our first openly insane president.”

That was all true a week or a month ago. In the past 24 hours or so, we’ve gone far beyond mere policy or personality flaws. We now have multiple allegations that Trump does not merely talk about assaulting women. The Post reported:

Four women accused Donald Trump of groping or kissing them without their consent in news reports published Wednesday, just days after the Republican presidential nominee insisted in a debate that he had never engaged in such behavior.

One of the women alleges that Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt during a flight more than three decades ago, the New York Times reported. Another says he kissed her on the mouth outside an elevator in 2005, according to the same report. A third woman says Trump groped her rear end at his Mar-a-Lago resort 13 years ago, the Palm Beach Post reported. The fourth, then a People magazine reporter, says Trump kissed her without her consent when the two were alone in 2005 right before an interview she was about to conduct with Trump and his wife.

Trump denies all of this, is reportedly irate and is threatening to sue over the reports — but then he regularly refuses to acknowledge easily verifiable events, including video evidence of his own statements. We should expect no confessions.

The Clinton campaign put out a statement: “This disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women. These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behavior he bragged about in the tape are more than just words.”  (There are also multiple allegations that he barged in on beauty pageant contestants, including minors, while they were changing and naked.)

The People magazine blockbuster set out in graphic detail just what kind of a creep Trump is. “We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us,” writes reporter Natasha Stoynoff on a 2005 encounter with Trump. “I turned around, and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat.” Trump denies this account as well.

Conservatives, including evangelicals, need to get a grip. It was obvious from the start that Trump was infinitely worse than Clinton on both policy and personal grounds. He is unbalanced, a narcissist who aspires to authoritarian power and who has treated and talked about women as though they were chattel. By insisting that Trump was worse than — or as bad as — Clinton, his defenders told us more about themselves than the relative merits of the two candidates. Now, with the latest raft of allegations about his sexual predation, apologists for Trump will seem not merely deluded but also depraved if they continue to paint him as the lesser of two evils. It is time for some moral straight talk: Trump is evil incarnate, not fit to have his own reality show, let alone the presidency.