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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Five top tips for the new Congress

By Alexandra Petri

Welcome, new Congress!

Congratulations on making it to this level. That took some real effort. While people like myself were playing Angry Birds, you were running around kissing babies, shaking hands, and making platforms, only occasionally getting flustered and shaking the babies instead. Now, thanks to all our hard work and effort, I am on level 23 of Angry Birds, and you are a member of the single institution in which Americans, by and large, have the lowest amount of confidence. But hey, mazel tov!

As you sit there listening to the Constitution (who knew Article III was so short?) and steeling yourself for the upcoming term, here are the five things you need to think about.

-Come up with new ways to criticize Congress. There are many things wrong with this institution. Of course, you know this -- you were the ones pointing them out! But since most of these criticisms were along the lines of "All current members of Congress are diabolical fiends who survive by devouring the hopes and dreams of working-class Americans," your approach might need some fine-tuning now that you're a member yourself. Try something more like, "All the members of Congress are diabolical fiends who devour the hopes and dreams of working-class Americans, except myself, and this guy, Steve, that I met during orientation who seemed pretty okay."

-Pork-barrel spending.
Now that you're in Congress, you have something known as constituents. Constituents are like children: They are always asking for things from you, mainly money and to be told how special they are, and you have to pretend that you like them and are interested in their experiences, because, ultimately, they will decide whether or not you get to keep your house. Before, you could complain about the pork-barrel spending that was rampant throughout Congress. But now that you are actually there and your constituents want, say, roads and construction projects, you need to be able to come up with an explanation. Try, "There are two kinds of pork barrel spending. There is the bad kind, and there is the kind that benefits Kentucky, where the people are uniquely deserving."

-Bipartisanship. In the olden days, Congress was a massively bipartisan institution full of collegiality. Sure, people would occasionally engage in duels, and now and then a member would cane another member senseless on the Senate floor, but other than that, it resembled the part of the '60's that nobody wants to talk about. Nowadays, this has changed. Sure, you will see members of the other party occasionally and some columnists will urge you to reach across the aisle to them. But in spite of any appearances to the contrary, they are not actually human beings with thoughts, value systems, and a wish to serve their country that are similar to yours. If they were, they would agree with you. Remain firm in your refusal to have anything to do with them. You know what happens to people who reach across the aisle: They get hit by the food cart, and the flight attendants yell at them.

-Staying in touch with voters. Back in the day, Congress was essentially left to its own devices with the exception of visits from reporters attempting to generate stories about what was happening "on the floor." Now, Congress is still left to its own devices, but most of these devices are wi-fi capable. Use them as much as possible to tweet vaguely encouraging messages to your "followers." Try to avoid too much contact with Snooki, but, otherwise, go nuts! Just don't say anything that you will ever regret or that might be controversial or that might offend anyone anywhere. A good example of this kind of tweet is, "Hey! America is sure wonderful, although other countries are good, too, but not as good as America is. Texas is my favorite state. Looks like it might rain."

-General advice. Don't forget to mention often how much you hate the culture here and how you are sleeping in your office, and boy are your arms numb! Bring tissues for Speaker Boehner and offer to "spend some time together, just listening, so we can get to the bottom of this." Suggest you go see Waiting for Superman, because you hear that it is a real tear-jerker, in the sense that it is set in the school system. Frequently tell people how much you hate Washington. Secretly buy a house here.

By Alexandra Petri  | January 5, 2011; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Big Deals, Congress, Petri  | Tags:  America, Congress, Constitution  
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Sums it up pretty well, actually.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | January 5, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations on reaching level 23 of the game, Angry Birds. I hear the game is also catching on with Arkansas blackbirds, who got so angry they knocked each other out of the sky.
According to the detailed poll results, only 4% have a "great deal" of confidence in congress. What I'd like to know is, who are these people?

I assume they mean that they have a great deal of confidence that the incoming congress will screw up the country worse than the last one.

Interestingly, 2% had "no opinion" about congress. They were too busy playing Angry Birds.

Posted by: divtune | January 5, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Lobbyists! Overwhelmed and confused about how to successfully navigate the political environment? Invite over some of these "destroyers of democracy" under the pretext of 'knowing thine enemy.'

Posted by: trsqw | January 5, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget the lobbyists! After months of bemoaning the "destroyers of democracy" Congress members will now have to rely on their experience and advice to navigate the political landscape of DC. Suggestion: invite them to a 5-star steak house lunch under the pretext of "knowing thine enemy."

Posted by: trsqw | January 5, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

5a. Avoid citizen Issa by wearing a boy or girl scout achievement badge ... under your armpit. ... He senses something is out of place, investigates ...... and then, officially clears you.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | January 5, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the pork-barrel spending shout-out for Kentucky! Thanks to McConnell, they deserve it!

Posted by: jrshark | January 6, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

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