OK, "rootless cosmpolitan" isn't quite the way Brooks words it, but that's the gist of his theory as to why Obama's not winning in a landslide:
...When we're judging candidates (or friends), we don't just judge the individuals but the milieus that produced them. We judge them by the connections that exist beyond choice and the ground where they will go home to be laid to rest. Andrew Jackson was a backwoodsman. John Kennedy had his clan. Ronald Reagan was forever associated with the small-town virtues of Dixon and Jimmy Carter with Plains.
...If Obama is fully a member of any club -- and perhaps he isn't -- it is the club of smart post-boomer meritocrats. We now have a cohort of rising leaders, Obama's age and younger, who climbed quickly through elite schools and now ascend from job to job. They are conscientious and idealistic while also being coldly clever and self-aware. It's not clear what the rest of America makes of them.
So, cautiously, the country watches. This should be a Democratic wipeout. But voters seem to be slow to trust a sojourner they cannot place.
"Post-boomer meritocrats" almost sounds like a translation from the original Russian.
Elsewhere in the column, Brooks explicitly makes the case for how disturbing the rootlessness is
There is a sense that because of his unique background and temperament, Obama lives apart. He put one foot in the institutions he rose through on his journey but never fully engaged. As a result, voters have trouble placing him in his context, understanding the roots and values in which he is ineluctably embedded.
...He was in the [University of Chicago] law school, but not of it.
... His childhood was a peripatetic journey through Kansas, Indonesia, Hawaii and beyond. He absorbed things from those diverse places but was not fully of them.
His college years were spent on both coasts. He was a community organizer for three years but left before he could be truly effective. He became a state legislator, but he was in the Legislature, not of it....
And on and on.
What's preposterous about this is that our last three Republican presidents all benefited from an utterly phony sense of rootedness. Reagan, as Brooks says, was believed to have "small-town virtues" even though he went Hollywood 43 years before he was elected president. Both Bushes were old-money preppies, born in New England, who pretended to be down-home Texans, and the younger Bush compounded the fraud by cynically buying an ersatz "ranch" a year before running for president.
And if rootedness is what Americans want in a president, what happened in 1988? No candidate's roots had been more on display than those of Michael Dukakis, a son of Greek immigrants. But his blueblood opponent painted him as someone whose ideas were "born in Harvard Yard's boutique," and he lost the election. Roots don't matter if the GOP character-assassination machine successfully paints you as a sinister egghead and, by implication, internationalist.
UPDATE: Right-wing hatchetman Robert Stacy McCain cuts to the chase and calls Obama "rootless," accompanied by an Obama picture captioned in Russian.
AND: Why is Obama not way ahead? Primarily because he's a Democrat. Every Democratic presidential candidate starts at a double-digit disadvantage, simply because the well-rooted Republican slanders on Democrats are reapplied every four years, with the "liberal" media's help. Every four years, the Republican is the dead-center salt of the earth and the Democrat is the coastal elitist weirdo freak who's going to tax us to death and get us all killed. I talk about some of that here.