Joe Biden's blowout victory in South Carolina and the evidence of his continuing and strong support in the African-American community served as a catalyst for the Democrats to act on the lesson the Republicans failed to learn in 2016, when the Republicans failed to unite around one alternative to Trump's candidacy. Between South Carolina and "Super Tuesday," first Pete Buttigieg and then Amy Klobichar did the adult thing and dropped out and endorsed Biden, coalescing into a united front to try to nominate the candidate with the most support in the base of the party and the best prospect of winning in November. (Michael Bloomberg has since also dropped out and endorsed Biden.)
Iowa and New Hampshire have a valuable role to play in the nominating process as places where candidates are required to engage with actual voters, but this year's experience has confirmed that we all - and pundits, in particular - need to be more cautious about according "front runner" status to someone simply because he or she does well in Iowa or New Hampshire and correspondingly cautious about counting anyone out based solely on Iowa or New Hampshire. If nothing else, Biden's performance Saturday and on Super Tuesday demonstrates the wisdom of waiting for a lot more voters to have their say.
Letting voters have their say raises the problematic issue of early voting. For philosophical reasons, I have always had mixed feelings about early voting, which prioritizes indiviudal convenience over the communal experience of participating in the civic ceremony of voting. But - in the absence of an Election Day holiday or something similar (like European style weekend voting) - I do recognize the value of convenience and its contribution to increasing total voter turnout. I voted early myself. But one obvious consequence of early voting this year was that many voters ended up voting for a candidate who dropped out on the eve of the actual primary. Given the popularity and obvious utility of early voting, eliminating early voting does not seem to be a desirable option. Introducing some form of ranked-choice voting, however, would be both possible and a great improvement. It could easily be introduced and would offer voters the opportunity to indicate other preferences in case their first choice dropped out or failed to qualify for any delegates.