Identity politics is a recognized, but emotionally laden term, especially in U.S. politics but present in many Western democracies. "Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestoes, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination."
While identity politics have been used divisively, they also have been described as means of meeting common needs. A number of U.S. Congressional Caucuses are identity based, including:
- Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
- Congressional Black Caucus
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Jewish identity is not always associated with Zionism, but Zionist organizations are powerful in American politics.
An American conservative specialist in civil rights and voting, Abigail Thernstrom, commented "Some of us thought the election of Barack Obama as president might signal a fading away of the old identity politics. The assumption that fundamental lines of division in politics are set by race and ethnicity would seem to be a bit passé when 43 percent of white voters cast their ballots for a proudly "post-racial" African-American." Thernstrom, however, pointed to identity politics having a significant role in the selection of Sonia Sotomayor as his first nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States.
It is widely accepted that any successful political candidate in New York City must have an ironclad digestive system, as one must go from group to group, eating every known ethnic food.