Bernie Sanders portrait (detail).
11×14, oil on canvas.
This is pivotal day in American politics. To celebrate, we pay our respects to Senator Bernie Sanders in words and pictures.
Love him or loathe him, Bernie Sanders is a great political character, and his face is loaded with a lifetime of experience that has built his extraordinary character.
Almost one year ago, while critiquing the branding and logos of a few 2016 hopefuls, I wrote in a Buzz piece, “Dark horse truth-sayer Bernie Sanders, the fiery independent U.S. Senator from Vermont (via Brooklyn) is like a cherished uncle (just call me Bernie) who tells it like it is at the dining room table at holiday time, and makes the youngsters want to do something noble with their lives, or at least stop being such greedy, self-absorbed little slugs, even as he castigates their parents for investing in war profiteers and world polluters…”
He has had a great year since then, and has attracted millions of eager, mostly young followers. Call them his honorary nephews and nieces (to extend the Uncle Bernie metaphor). To these folks, Bernie can do no wrong. To date, he is the only candidate who has had a little bird alight on his podium, eliciting a rare and broad grin and roars of approval from the crowd. Bernie has a friendly side, of course, which is not easy for him to project: his uncomfortable seeming smile sometimes comes across as a tight lipped horizontal wrinkle beneath his bulbous nose. Sometimes, when he does show his famously crooked and obviously capped teeth, it is as if he were about to bite something… or someone. You have to seek out the elusive twinkle.
His angry side is the aspect by which most tv viewers see him, as he unleashes righteous indignation and hurls it at a very real and almost omnipotent foe.
His is a grimace of outrage, a shot across the bow of fat cats and entitled elitists.
But he is not an angry man all the time; and he is most definitely not some crazy wild-eyed moth-eaten old commie sitting in a waterfront bar and reminiscing about days on the picket line, or stickin’ it to the Man, or throwing bombs.
Still, Bernie Sanders is like two people in one, his yin and yang struggling constantly for dominance. This is how I attempted to portray him, with diametrically opposed forces evident on his face, a sort of Doctor Bernie and Mister Burn.
The Associated Press and NBC News have already declared that Mr. Sanders’ opponent is the presumed Democratic nominee for President of the United States. That announcement has been picked up by most major news outlets worldwide. Today is Tuesday, June 7, 2016… it is Primary Day in California, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Montana. Let’s see how Bernie does before he is counted out of the race.
However it shakes out, his was the good fight, and I am curious to see which Bernie Sanders — rabble-rouser or conciliator — shows up in my hometown for the Democratic Convention next month.
I am betting on Bernie the Peacemaker. Feel me?