The ability of progressives to advocate seemingly detrimental policies need not be thought of as evidence of some exotic psychological quirk. A moment's reflection reveals that progressives are paradoxically opposed to progress, and simply misappropriate the title for another philosophy. What the modern progressive believes in more than anything is exceptionism. This is to be distinguished from the more familiar exceptionalism in that the latter at least contains a hint of merit and achievement.
What the modern progressive believes is that rules are for other people. It is only the ideologically pure that may obtain exemption from the misery that they prescribe for others under the guise of "fairness." Thus, Al Gore can deplete an entire oil field to lecture us on the evils of fossil fuels; President Obama can crank the heat in the oval office while he practices his sonorous admonition to the hoi polloi that they must "sacrifice." Timothy Geithner can claim carelessness and self-interest as exemptions on his own tax returns while venerating the letter of the law for others. Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and Nancy Pelosi can be very solemn-faced about the rules when prescribing them for others, but view their own conduct contrary to those rules as the tribute that audacity pays to ideology.
Progressives seem oblivious to hypocrisy because they think themselves incapable of it. Their view of fairness means that exceptions will always be made for hard cases, and any divergence between their words and conduct is merely an exception that they are entitled to by virtue of their own wonderfulness. This explains why the left are so enthralled with anecdotes and victimhood. Of course they are not worried that the government will deny their cancer therapy or their hip replacement when the time comes. They assume that an exception will be made in their case, because the denials are for others, the people clinging to their guns and bibles and so forth.
Progressives know that the cute immigrant child that brings Oprah's audience to tears will get her bone marrow transplant, because an exception will be made in her case. They see all difficult policy issues as simply vignettes of special pleading. They don't worry that costs will rise, that access will shrink, that quality will suffer, because the way they look at the world, it doesn't matter. An exception will be made in their case.