I am writing this piece on an ANA flight from Washington to Narita. My uncontrollable curiosity about what’s happening in the United States made this trip my third in the last six months. What I found this time, however, was shocking. This city does not represent “real America” — which only exists outside the Beltway.

Washington is not leading the nation now. It is the “real America,” especially outside the big cities, that is transforming this nation’s capital. It was a shock but no surprise, since I wrote as early as 1994 that if you want to know about real America, leave D.C. and visit rural areas in other states. I was a young diplomat but was not mistaken.

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