Opinion writer

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Phoenix on Oct. 29. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

There is a single candidate — one so lacking in qualifications, presidential temperament, rudimentary knowledge, empathy and even independence from a foreign enemy of the United States — whom Hillary Clinton could beat. And yes, a plurality of GOP primary voters picked Donald Trump, and spineless GOP elected officials enabled him. Not even a last-minute reminder of Clinton’s email debacle (one virtually assured not to alter the original decision to recommend against prosecuting her) can alter the reality that Trump is a menace to our democracy and threat to our national security, and that the party that continues to support him has lost its moral authority.

Don’t take my word for it. Gallup finds:

Voters rate Trump worse than any other presidential candidate in Gallup’s records on having the personality and leadership qualities a president should have. Previous readings were taken in late October in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 campaigns. In those years, between 52% and 61% of registered voters said the two major-party candidates had the right personality and leadership qualities — a sharp contrast to Trump’s current 32%. Clinton’s rating of 51% is one percentage point below the previous low score. . . . .

Trump’s deficit on perceived personality and leadership is also evident in the views among party groups. Sixty percent of Republican voters and independent voters who lean Republican say Trump has presidential personality and leadership qualities, substantially lower than the 87% of Democratic voters and leaners who say that about Clinton.

What does it say about Republicans that 60 percent of them think a raging narcissist, racist, misogynist and congenital liar is fit to be president? Remember, this is not a comparison question; it asks about Trump in isolation.

One can understand why a significant share of people who have considered themselves to be Republicans for their entire lives might want out of this horror show. If you think the fundamental principles of America (and of conservatism) include respect for one’s fellow man and democratic norms, then Trump is abhorrent and any defense of him (not merely in comparison with Clinton) is inexplicable, if not stomach-turning.

Appearing on CNN on Friday, Evan McMullin, the independent conservative, struck back at unhinged rants against him from Fox’s Sean Hannity (“Who’s this idiot that’s running third party that’s killing Trump out in Utah/ Who put him up? What was it? The Bush people? The Romney people?”) and Lou Dobbs (“Look deeper at him. He’s nothing but a globalist, Romney and Mormon mafia tool”):

It’s interesting that these people who consider themselves so-called “conservatives,” especially Sean Hannity, would so attack us. You have to ask yourself at this point, what do these men really stand for? Do they stand for conservatism? Do they stand for the timeless truths on which this country was founded? Why would they stand with Donald Trump if they’re true conservatives, as he attacks people based on their faith, their race, their gender. You have to wonder, are they really conservatives, and in fact I think we have to ask ourselves, what does the Republican Party stand for anymore? Right now you have most elected officials with the party standing with Donald Trump, even as he brags about the sexual assault of women. Even as he aligns himself with Bashar al-Assad and [Vladimir] Putin. This is a guy who I think is really demonstrating that the Republican Party has lost its way and abandoned its core principles.

Pressed on what he thinks of Lou Dobbs’s anti-Mormon bigotry, McMullin responded:

I want to make that clear, but the hallmark of Donald Trump’s campaign has been to attack people based on their race and religion and all of this. And so it’s not a surprise to me at all. I mean we’re kind of having fun with it. But the truth is that this country’s for everyone. This country is for people of all races and religions, and certainly both genders are equal and should be treated as such. That’s something that if you don’t understand that, you have no business leading this country, and I actually have the same criticism of those who are standing with Donald Trump from the Republican Party now. It’s truly unfortunate if they’re not going to stand up for Americans who are being attacked on these grounds, their religion, their gender, their race, what good are they for leadership of our country?

That’s the question that many center-right Americans are asking themselves. The answer is that they cannot lend political support or legitimacy to a party so lacking in fundamental decency. For that reason, many will refuse to vote for Trump. More important, after the election they’ll be looking for a way out of a party that is morally and politically compromised beyond repair.