Identity politics are broadly defined, but they typically involve an individual who bases his identity on social categories and divisions. Some examples are a feminist who always votes for female candidates regardless of policies, or a black person who primarily supports causes designed to empower the black community.
The late 20th century saw a rise in identity politics as social injustice and inequality became widely acknowledged. The large political and social movements led to the notion that individuals are more prone to poverty, violence and marginalization based on ethnicity, gender and other social divisions. Identity politics involves embracing these divisions as an essential part of identity, which means the identity of a single person is necessarily politicized by the social categories to which he belongs.
Identity politics are widely criticized because they often involve the assumption that an entire group has the same needs and interests. The fact that Barack Obama won 95 percent of the black vote in the 2008 presidential election has been criticized from several different angles. The idea that black voters supported Obama regardless of his politics is largely unsubstantiated, as Democratic presidential candidates have won the majority of black votes in virtually every election. However, identity politics could have been responsible for a smaller degree of his support among the black community.
The positive side of identity politics is that they are often rational. For example, the assumption that a female politician would support the interests of women is statistically accurate. In addition, support for political causes that empower a social community usually benefit the individual. An example would be the advancement of gay rights, which could benefit an individual who identified with that social division in a variety of ways.