There is a narrative that has emerged in the Democratic primary, and it goes something like this: Hillary Clinton locked up the Democratic establishment long before the primary began in earnest. She's the wife of an ex-president. She was endorsed by virtually every elected official in the party and pretty much every major interest group. Her dominance of the inside game was unprecedented for a non-incumbent candidate. And she used this elite firewall to choke off Sanders's revolution.
When Sanders's supporters argue that the election was rigged against their candidate, this is what they are talking about. Sanders, they feel, did what you normally have to do to win an election: He generated more enthusiasm, brought in more voters, raised more money, gave better speeches, and polled higher in head-to-head match-ups against the Republican candidate. It was only Clinton's pact with the Democratic establishment that stopped his rise.
In this telling, the way Clinton won the primary is the reason her victory feels hollow: It was nearly preordained, and the seriousness of the challenge Sanders posed just shows what a flawed candidate she really is.
But another way to look at the primary is that Clinton employed a less masculine strategy to win. She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders.
This work is a grind — it's not big speeches, it doesn't come with wide applause, and it requires an emotional toughness most human beings can't summon.
But Clinton is arguably better at that than anyone in American politics today. In 2000, she won a Senate seat that meant serving amidst Republicans who had destroyed her health-care bill and sought to impeach her husband. And she kept her head down, found common ground, and won them over.
"We have become, actually, good friends," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who served as one of the Republican prosecutors during impeachment. "And that was a surprise to both of us." (It is perhaps not coincidental that Graham is one of the few elected Republicans now calling on his fellow Republicans to retract their endorsements of Donald Trump.)
And Clinton isn't just better — she's relentless. After losing to Barack Obama, she rebuilt those relationships, campaigning hard for him in the general, serving as his secretary of state, reaching out to longtime allies who had crushed her campaign by endorsing him over her. (This, by the way, is why I don't think you can dismiss Clinton's victory as reflections of her husband's success: She's won her own elections and secured a major appointment in a subsequent administration.)
Now Obama says that Clinton "had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did. She had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels." It's been clear since early in the primary that he is firmly in her corner, and his endorsement is believed to be imminent.
In this telling, in order to do something as hard as becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, she had to do something extraordinarily difficult: She had to build a coalition, supported by a web of relationships, that dwarfed in both breadth and depth anything a non-incumbent had created before. It was a plan that played to her strengths, as opposed to her (entirely male) challengers' strengths. And she did it.
Hillary Clinton is a generationally talented politician — albeit across a different set of dimensions than men tend to be talented politicians.
When she lost in 2008, Clinton said that after her campaign, it would no longer be remarkable to see women win presidential primaries and nearly win their party's nomination. But no women did it in 2012, and she was the only woman to do it in 2016. It is still not easy, and it is still not unremarkable, for a woman to succeed in presidential politics. Clinton's victory is a remarkable achievement, and it shouldn't be dismissed.
Commentary by Ezra Klein, the editor-in-chief of Vox. Follow him on Twitter @ezraklein.
For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow