People usually use the term “identity politics” to mean blocs of voters who cast their ballots for people with whom they share an identity.
For example, during the last two Presidential elections, opponents of President Obama often attributed his huge advantage among black voters to his skin color. Of course, “they” would vote for one of “their own.”
If that were true, of course, African-Americans would be lining up to support Ben Carson. They clearly aren’t, and a lot of Republicans don’t understand why. The confusion lies in a profound misunderstanding of what we should probably call “communities of interest” rather than “identity politics.”
Most readers of this blog, even those who lived in Indiana at the time, will not remember Joan Gubbins, a particularly unpleasant woman who served in the State Senate in the 1970s. Gubbins was a forerunner of today’s social conservatives–among other things, she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and memorably campaigned against her opponent in one primary by going door-to-door and explaining that the voter’s choice was between “a good conservative Christian and a damn liberal Jew.”
The Women’s Political Caucus (of which I was a member) endorsed her male opponent, who supported a number of women’s rights measures.
Women’s organizations like the (now defunct) Political Caucus and Emily’s List usually support women candidates–but not those with positions inimical to women’s rights. In the 2008 Presidential race, no self-respecting advocate for women’s equality was persuaded to vote Republican because Sarah Palin was on the ticket.
Latinos support candidates with reasonable positions on immigration and other policies relevant to that community. Whatever Ted Cruz’ ethnicity, he’s not going to get the Latino vote.
Women don’t disproportionately support Hillary Clinton because she’s female; they do so because she has championed women’s issues. (Sorry, Carly. As Sara Palin’s candidacy should have demonstrated, female plumbing isn’t enough.)
In 2016, African-Americans aren’t going to vote for a monumentally unqualified Ben Carson, whose positions suggest that he suffers from something akin to Stockholm Syndrome.
Anyone who thinks that “identity politics” means voting for someone who “looks like me” just doesn’t get it.