Photo by Tom Brenner for The New York Times / President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington on Oct. 8, 2021.

The Democrats are staring down real danger.

They just aren't getting enough done. They aren't moving quickly enough on President Joe Biden's major campaign promises.

The warning signs are all around.

Democrats are still wrangling over their infrastructure and social spending bills. And the longer the fight drags on, the uglier it looks. Washington watchers are right — to a degree — to say that this is simply the way that large legislation is worked through. It's a slog.

In the end, I believe that the Democrats will have no choice but to pass something, no matter the size, because the consequence of failure is suicide. Democrats must go into the midterms with something that they can call a win, with something that at least inches closer to the transformations Biden has promised.

But the budget isn't the only issue.

There is still a crisis at the border. The handling of Haitian immigrants was a particular blight on the administration.

Furthermore, the Senate parliamentarian has advised Democrats against including a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants in their spending bill. It is not clear if Senate Democrats will try to get around the parliamentarian's nonbinding ruling, but 92 legal scholars have called on them to do just that.

As for police reform, negotiations on that legislation completely fell apart with customary finger-pointing as the epilogue.

The president has said that, "The White House will continue to consult with the civil rights and law enforcement communities, as well as victims' families to define a path forward, including through potential further executive actions I can take to advance our efforts to live up to the American ideal of equal justice under law."

But executive orders are severely limited when it comes to state and local policing, and any order one president issues can be rescinded by the next.

Then there is the massive, widespread assault on voting rights rolling out across the country.

As the Brennan Center for Justice put it earlier this month, "In an unprecedented year so far for voting legislation, 19 states have enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote."

And yet, it is still not clear if there are enough votes in the Senate to pass voter protections, Sen. Joe Manchin hasn't agreed to change filibuster rules which would allow Democrats to pass the legislation on their own, and Biden has yet to throw his full weight behind the fight to preserve the franchise from Republican assaults.

Not to mention that COVID-19 is still killing far too many Americans. The surge of cases during Biden's first year ate away at any optimism about the development and administration of vaccines.

Democrats have been unable to deliver much to make their voters happy, and their major agenda items have been stalled in Congress for so long that many of those voters are growing impatient and disillusioned.

As a result, many recent polls have shown Biden's approval ratings plummeting to the lowest level of his young presidency: According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 38% of respondents approved of Biden's job performance, but 53% disapproved.

Maybe the Democrats will pass a massive spending bill and tout it well, and people will forget their disappointment on other issues and revel in the mound of cash the Democrats plan to spend. Maybe. There is no doubt that this country desperately needs the investments Democrats want to make. In fact, it needs even more investment than the amount Democrats have proposed.

But even if they succeed in passing both the infrastructure framework and the social spending bill, those investments may come too late to discharge growing dissatisfaction. An unpopular president with slipping approval numbers is an injured leader will little political capital to burn.

Biden is better than Trump, but that's not enough. People didn't just vote for Biden to vanquish a villain, they also wanted a champion. That champion has yet to emerge.

The New York Times