Not to remove the wind from the sails, but Disney did this simply because they could, and they know it. For all the complaints, all the emotions, all the talk, at the end of the day one is either a member or they are not. If they're a member, they're a paying member (even if grandfathered at the "discounted" gold level). If they're not a member, someone else standing in line will gladly take their place. As appalling as it may sound to some individuals, the members as individuals are expendable. They can be replaced, and in some cases Disney may prefer to replace them due to a higher profit margin.
That said, joining 33 is a personal decision. I can only hope this thread at least removes some of the myth, and gives prospective members a variety of opinions.