The basic philosophy of progressivism is that both man and society are perfectible. Conservatism has been distorted and smeared over the years, but at its most elemental it is a philosophy of “small is better” and is reflected in politics when one hears calls for limited government and less taxes. Edmund Burke, political philosopher and theorist, and the 'father' of conservatism said the primary characteristics for a well-functioning society are tradition and obligation.
Progressivism has led to today's postmodernism that in turn leads people to think that life is unlimited (who knows how many self-help books use that word over and over again) and is aptly described in the following from a recent essay in The Imaginative Conservative, "Orestes Brownson and the Limits of Freedom:"
Postmodern man -- especially in the United States, where issues such as transgender, transsexuality, and transhumanism are popular topics in mainstream society -- has constructed for himself a hell of subjectivism that is ultimately as superficial and irrational as calling a dog a cat and then acting as if this designation is legitimate by feeding the dog cat food, offering it catnip, and setting up a scratching post for the dog to sharpen its claws. It is an old problem, one that has its roots in ancient Greece with the sophist Protagoras’ declaration that “Man is the measure of all things.” If man is the measure of all things, there can be no God. Man cannot measure the infinite.
Essentially Progressivism calls for never-ending change, another area where it differs with conservativism in a big way. Conservatism, as its name implies, means to conserve, as in saving what is true, beautiful and unchanging over time. In a word, tradition, as first articulated by Edmund Burke. Progressivism is inherently never satisfied with the status quo. It is always demanding change and pointing to even the most trivial things in the life that are either unfair or offensive or both. It is the philosophy of perpetual grievance that needs to keep people angry in order to keep them in line and not distracted so people won't consider any alternative points of view. Daniel Greenfield on his blog Sultan Knish described it perfectly with one sentence:
"To be a progressive is to be committed to perpetual reform in the name of perpetual grievance for perpetual power."
At the end of 2016, it was reported that around 16% of the population is taking anti-depressants and other psychiatric drugs and another report says that "More Americans suffering from stress, anxiety and depression, study finds".
So what is going on in American society and why is there an epidemic of depression and anxiety? To extrapolate on Daniel Greenfield's quote, what's going on is that progressivism leads to perpetual discontent. And what happens at a personal level is when the primary values of hyperindividualism are more money, more fun, more things, more vacations, how can one possibly be content? And in the constant and exhausting search for personal peace and acceptance, one inevitably becomes either depressed or stressed out or both. It also leads to isolation and loneliness, usually significant contributors to depression. These are the unintended consequences of unrestrained radical individualism of the left.
The perpetual grievance machine of Progressivism at the political macro level is just reflecting what's going on at the individual micro level: FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out, also known as envy. Remove grievance and identity politics from the agenda of the Democrats and what do they have left? Absolutely nothing -- and the party would collapse. But in the meantime, tens of millions of Americans are hearing from liberal politicians, celebrities and the mainstream media how nothing is ever good enough and so and so is responsible. No wonder everyone is depressed.