This is the moment when we once again reflect on the utter randomness—and fatefulness—of the primary schedule and system. This year is even crueler than usual because of the interaction of the Senate impeachment trial with the early primary and precinct states.

Consider: Any of four candidates could plausibly win Iowa and New Hampshire, and Nevada could also be up for grabs. Depending on whether a single candidate sweeps all three or the results splinter, the momentum of the Democratic nomination could go in drastically different directions—because of the bandwagon and the media echo chamber’s propensity for exaggerating it.

Let’s say Warren, having rebooted her campaign with her debate exchange on gender and her case that she’s the best unifier, wins Iowa. That in turn helps her win New Hampshire and maybe Nevada as well. Suddenly, she’s the front-runner again, a resilient survivor and a giant-killer.

Or let’s say Bernie wins both. Pundits have already begun writing that the most radical candidate in the field could actually be the nominee. At 78, he’s the bionic candidate, and a socialist to boot—the real populist as opposed to Trump’s faux populism.

Or Joe Biden could win both. And then the conventional wisdom takes over. Never mind if he trips over his words, he’s obviously the guy to beat Trump.

Alternatively, the results could splinter, leaving Democrats with an enervating slog and maybe even a brokered convention—all playing to Trump’s advantage. And Sanders and Warren being stuck behind their desks at the Senate trial for the next few weeks, not even able to speak (crash dummies, anyone?) could help Biden. Unless of course Biden is called as a witless, oops I mean witness.

The most appalling thing is that a few thousand voters in tiny, unrepresentative states will determine the direction of a momentous election. On this the fate of the Republic turns.

God save America.