The Hillary Clinton of 2008 talked a lot about her qualifications and background as a lawyer, a United States senator, a first lady, a children’s rights advocate — and very little about the fact that she’s a woman. Even if she’d had a grandchild at the time, she probably wouldn’t have been photographed pushing a baby carriage. If she’d been delayed returning from the bathroom during a debate break, she would have trampled three interns and a cameraman to get back to the stage in time.
The Hillary Clinton of 2016, in stark contrast, is a proud grandmother, confidently exercising her right to let the world wait for her, and above all, unafraid to acknowledge that in running she is making it possible for “fathers … to say to their daughters, ‘You, too, can grow up to be president.’”
So, what happened?
Lena Dunham happened. And Amy Schumer. Also Sheryl Sandberg, Gabby Giffords, the first female Army Rangers and all of women’s soccer. All assessed in polls, discussed in strategy sessions with her aides and all pointing to the same conclusion: that if the United States is ready to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus as president, it’s ready to elect Hillary Clinton. And, of course, something else happened: Donald Trump.
“The cultural moment is different for a female candidate for president than the one that existed as recently as seven years ago,” says Howard Wolfson, co-chief strategist and communications director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, who now works for Bloomberg and is watching this one from the sidelines.