Young, Gay And Post-Capitalist: Meet The NYU Student Who Challenged Nancy Pelosi

"I have zero faith in the Democratic Party."

It may seem like the Democrats are off licking their wounds, but they’re still around: On Tuesday, CNN held a town hall with Nancy Pelosi.

While Pelosi probably expected a sympathetic crowd—the event was held in New York, after all—during the Q&A period she got more than she bargained for.

trevor hill

Trevor Hill, a gay NYU student who studies public policy, actually abandoned his pre-written question and threw Rep. Pelosi for a loop with a question that challenged the very nature of our economic system.

A Harvard University poll last May showed that people between the ages of 18 and 29—not just Democrats and not just leftists—51% of people between 18 and 29, no longer support the system of capitalism.

That’s not me asking you to make a radical statement about capitalism. But I’m just telling you that my experience is that the younger generation is moving left on economic issues.

I’ve been so excited to see how Democrats have moved left on social issues. As a gay man I’ve been very proud to see you, and many Democratic leaders fighting for our rights. I wonder if you feel there’s any way you feel the Democrats could move any farther left to a more populist message, the way the alt-right has sort of captured this more populist strain on the right wing?

Watching video of the exchange, you can see Pelosi was thrown—not just by his question, but by the statistic he raised. More than half of this generation is disenchanted with good old-fashioned capitalism.

It’s doubtful her reply reassured any of them: “We’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is” she declared. “However, we do think that capitalism is not necessarily meeting the needs with the income inequality that we have in our country.”

In an interview with the site Some Millennials, Hill revealed he was “terrified” to go off-script.

“I may have looked composed, but I was about ready to sprint out of the room,” he confided. “”But, overall, I felt safe, in that it was supposed to look like a genuine town hall meeting, and that I’d only been myself like any real person would. They couldn’t punish me for that.”

Their exchange went viral almost immediately, with screenshots and comments all over twitter.

“I thought I’d get some ’Oh my god I saw you on TVs’ from friends and family, but I never thought people would get so excited about my question,” Hill said. “As far as her answer, I sort of feel bad for her. All she basically ended up saying was, ’Capitalism only works on paper.'”

He says he understands why she offered such a pedantic response, “but I would’ve liked an answer to my question, which was focused on what areas Democrats could move left in order to appeal to younger, ’left-er’ generations.”

Hill’s parents suffered during the last recession—they declared bankruptcy during the recovery, and there were times they had to decide between buying food and keeping the lights on. (He attends NYU on a full scholarship.) He’s read the Communist Manifesto but says “I’m not a very well-versed Marxist.”

But he’s not a card-carrying Democrat, either. He voted for Jill Stein in the general election.

“I have zero faith in the Democratic Party,” Hill declared. “I switched my registration from Independent to Democrat to vote in the primary and left as soon as the primary was over. I fully expected her to avoid any mention of moving left on economic issues and I don’t expect Democrats to so in the future.”

He’s convinced revolution will come, but isn’t sure what form it will take. “But I’m certain that the drastic changes necessary to uproot the system will not come from the system itself.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.