At long last, the AP reports that Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, and once she's officially nominated at the convention later this summer, she'll become the first female presidential candidate in either of the two major parties. A Clinton presidency would have have countless effects on just about everything, of course. But if she does win, one of the most significant and far-reaching implications of her presidency won't be felt until 10, 20, or even 50 years down the line.
If and when Clinton is elected president, an entire generation of young American women will grow up knowing that they, too, can become president some day if they so desire. Just as Clinton herself cites Eleanor Roosevelt, another trailblazing woman, as one of her biggest role models, tens of millions of young women will be inspired and motivated by Clinton to reach higher and further than they otherwise would have thought possible.
This might sound corny, but it's 100 percent legit. As children, our earliest aspirations and dreams are informed by what we see around us. A child who says they want to be an astronaut when they grow up, to use a cliché example, is only able to form that desire because they've learned about and seen other people becoming astronauts. So far, not a single woman in America has ever witnessed their country elect a woman president.
Of course, a Clinton victory would be inspiring to many Americans of all ages, genders, and races. But the effect that a President Clinton would have on young generations of women is extra super-duper important. Young people begin forming their sense of what's possible and what isn't at a young age, and that fuels their earliest hopes and dreams for their lives. For a child to know with certainty at a young age that she could possibly become president is nothing short of enormous, as it will remove an artificial barrier she may have otherwise placed on herself.
To be sure, there are plenty of men in America who also doubt their ability to become president. But none of them can plausibly claim that it's their gender, their maleness, that's holding them back from the White House. Sure, the deluded man-babies of Gamergate might make such an argument, but they would be refuted by the fact that men have successfully ascended to the presidency in 44 out of 44 elections in American history.
None of this is to say that a Clinton presidency would single-handedly tear down the patriarchy or "fix" institutional sexism. But as Barack Obama's election expanded the realm of possibility for tens of millions of young black Americans, a Clinton victory would do for young women around the country. The effects of this won't be felt immediately, but in a couple of decades, when successful and accomplished women who've contributed greatly to society start citing Clinton's presidency as one of their earliest inspiration, the historic importance of her presidency will be heard loud and clear.