There is Progressivism in politics and there is Progressivism in a broader sense - a philosophical idea.
Wikipedia defines the philosophical idea as follows:
Progressivism is a broad philosophy based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition. Progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, out of the belief that Europe was demonstrating that societies could progress in civility from barbaric conditions to civilization through strengthening the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society. Figures of the Enlightenment believed that progress had universal application to all societies and that these ideas would spread across the world from Europe. Sociologist Robert Nisbet finds that "No single idea has been more important than ... the Idea of Progress in Western civilization for three thousand years"...
I maintain that this philosophical approach, which is too vague to stand on its own as either a goal or a standard, was hijacked by those who wanted to implement their political philosophy. And the result of taking whatever was projected as being a desirable goal in society at the time (e.g., environmentalism, income equality, social justice, etc.) and putting it up for window-dressing, while architecting mechanisms and structures that would actually ensure a movement towards totalitarian control by a centralized elite and often no movement towards the professed goal.
Dishonesty is the cardinal trait of Political Progressivism. Because the actual motives of those few are kept hidden behind the announced goals of peace, justice, clear air and water, health care access, etc. The result is that the vast majority of those who would say they agree with Progressives only see the announced goals and have no concept of the drive to eradicate individualism and any individual rights which are the primary obstacles to implementing their collectivism.
Hiding behind the dishonesty we can see different strains of leftist views: The Fabian Socialists of the late 1800's, and the Saul Alinsky followers of the Sixties, are just examples.
What has to be asked is "progress towards what?", "by what standard?" and "at what cost?"
..."karmic balance". According to this viewpoint, whenever someone exercises any form of power over somebody else, be that power political, economic, ideological, etc., they have, in some sense, disturbed the "moral balance" of the universe.
But the amount of hypocrisy involved in that is overwhelming. In the name of stopping others from having power over some, we elites, as a government, are going to take power over everyone and force our idea of equality! That position could only be held by seriously NOT thinking... ever.
I'd say that the importance of "intentions" is in determined the level of honesty of the individual in question. Is the person consciously making ad hominem statements they know to be false but do anyway because they think it will be effective? Or, do they really believe the conservative intends to do harm?
That is the category where the importance of "intentions" is just what Joe said. It is about the political view being held by the progressive/socialist in question, where they honestly believe that support of Capitalism is an example of intentional evil, attempting to hold down the poor, or pollute the air and water for a buck, etc.
And then there is the issue of psychology. Is the person in question is actually engaging in reason or just a kind of pseudo-reason to mask emotionalism or a kind of conditioned-reflex argument. I can see many people, indoctrinated into a style of argument, who have adopted an emotionalist approach to disagreement and who brand someone else as a "conservative" and therefore evil, therefore justifying jumping on a moral high horse, and the causal event is someone arguing against one of their PC issues. That's less about claiming intentionality of evil as it is about and irrational, emotional style of discourse - i.e., "You're not part of my pack" and they start growling to chase off the outsider.