This paper formally models the rise in populist politics during the last decade. In the literature the rise in populism is attributable both to cultural and economic factors. Chief among the latter is the inequality engendered by globalization and technical progress. When the plight of the marginalised is ignored by mainstream centrist parties, populist challengers rush in emphasizing cultural factors, invoking an enviable bygone past reminiscent of the golden age of capitalism. In what follows we apply prospect theory, where disenchanted individuals support populists because they promise to enact what is desirable, even at the expense of harming their already disadvantaged economic position. Support for populism depends upon the desirability of some of their nationalist policies to an already pre-disposed vote bank, as well as the calculus of meme verification. The model also incorporates political competition between a populist challenger and a liberal politician, where memes and messages are the strategic variables. It is postulated that nations ruled by populists are more likely to suffer more greatly from pandemic shocks, due to their public policies, except through serendipity or when the populist adopts more benevolent authoritarian practices.