Bill Shaheen, a powerful figure in New Hampshire Democratic circles and the husband of Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor of New Hampshire and now one of its senators, said that American women no longer needed men to pave the way for them. “Jeanne and I made a pact 50 years ago when we got married: I would make the money, and she would make a difference,” he said. “That didn’t happen so much then. It’s happening now all the time.”
Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy changed the dynamic for women who followed her in other ways, too. She meticulously checked all the boxes for what used to be required credentials for the presidency. No major female presidential candidate today has a résumé as expansive as Mrs. Clinton’s, but they are nonetheless seen as credible.
Because so many women are running in 2020, with their range of political experience, ideology and race, the coming election may be a truer test of gender attitudes. “There’s now an awful lot of diversity among these women, you’re not stuck with just one, you get to choose,” Ms. Walsh said. “Let’s see where that goes.”
Women running in 2020 may also be better armed than Mrs. Clinton was against a candidate who broke all political conventions by attacking women in aggressive, sexist terms. “Now they have a bit of a road map,” Ms. Walsh said. “Even things like that horrible last debate, where he was hulking around her, she says in her book, ‘I made the decision not to respond to him and in retrospect maybe I should have turned around and said, back off buddy.’ I think the women running now learned some of that.”
Ms. Dingell, however, sounded a note of caution. “I think there are still challenges for women,” she said, including access to money and networks and even some degree of residual backlash. “It’s just we’re in changing times. People are feeling threatened.”
Terry Shumaker, who worked on both Clintons’ New Hampshire campaigns, said Mrs. Clinton’s popular vote victory was more of a landmark in shifting attitudes than is often recognized.
“I’ve always believed that when we vote for president, it’s a different vote than any other vote we cast,” he said. “It’s a more visceral, gut kind of thing — we want mommy or daddy, somebody bigger than life who will keep us safe. She made it possible for people to envision a woman being president.”