The features that lots of people cared about (printer settings, fonts, focus follows mouse, keyboard layouts, ...) did come back. This was definitely a sign of success, but perhaps it would have been better if they had never been taken away? Hard to say.
Also, you seem to be saying that anyone who liked Gnome 2.32 was wrong to dislike Gnome 2.0 (or that the success of 2.32 demonstrates the success of 2.0?). They're not the same beast. Gnome 2 improved a huge amount during its earlies and teens.
Other than those points, I totally agree, especially about not overreacting to flames.
It would be nice to be able to use Gnome 2.early or 3.early but both are pretty tough sledding... Maybe this is an intentional part of its development model? Shed hardware, users, and features in one giant release, then gain them back over the next few years. Maybe I should just plan on not being able to use Gnome between the second and fifth year of each decade. :)