Stack Overflow is not a democracy. Stack Overflow, and the Stack Exchange network, was built on a series of guiding principles set down by its founders. Among those principles is a zero tolerance policy for crap.
First among that is the belief that a question must justify itself. Yes, a crap question can yield good answers, but that is not sufficient reason to leave a crap question around. If someone wants to turn it into a good question, fine. But we do not waste time with crap questions just because they might lead to good, useful answers. We want good questions; we punish bad ones.
That is part of the founding principles of Stack Overflow. Of Stack Exchange. Of all of the successful sites in the SE network.
SO exists because forums were a terrible way to deal with questions. And one of the reasons for that is exactly this: every post is equally valid. There's no way to stop the flow of crap. There's no way for a community driven by principles to shut down nonsense before it does its damage. Eventually, people get tired of answering the same garbage over and over again. And they leave. This is the forum life-cycle, and it is something SO was designed to stop.
But for all of SO's great technology, what fundamentally makes SO work is the zero tolerance the SO community has for garbage. On SO, it began with its founders and the initial beta users. That culture spread among the initial crop of public users. And now, the SO community, moderators, and founders alike will tolerate no compromises on their principles. And without that, SO would be a cesspool.
Which is what GDSE is becoming.
The culture of SO was very clear, as laid down by its founders. But the culture of GDSE continues to have forum-like elements. Permissive. Let that question go, because it might "yield good and useful answers." No principles, no rigid rules and regulation. Just let anyone ask pretty much anything; only stop the most egregious of problems.
Just look at MSO. This question would never have been asked on Meta Stack Overflow. Instead, it's inverse question is usually asked: why don't we allow more poll questions? Why don't we allow more of these questions? Why was my question closed in 5 minutes? And so forth.
And in most cases, MSO users will quickly downvote and expurgate such questions. The community has said in a clear and convincing voice that there will be no retreat, no surrender, no compromise on its core principles.
That GDSE's community can't/won't do the same is a damning indictment of GDSE as a whole. It shows that we don't have enough high-rep users who follow the SO principles. It shows that our culture is damaged, cancerous, riven with those who do not stand for what makes SO great.
Moderators are supposed to be the last line of defense. They're supposed to do what the community can't, act as a failsafe when the community can't achieve the goal alone. They should be the janitors, taking out the trash. But because they see the community as "divided" on the issue, they sit on the sidelines and let the crap build and grow. They see bad questions but won't use their moderator close votes to close them, simply because they don't feel there is a community consensus on the issue.
In short, it is the failure of democracy: one side gets its way by simply being obstinate. All it takes to keep this site down is for enough members of the community to say that "garbage questions are fine." If enough of them do, then the moderators won't act, and our one fail-safe is sabotaged.
I don't really see a way out of this. So long as enough of the community clings to this forum mentality, where we believe that everyone should have a voice no matter how stupid, where we allow anyone to ask just about anything no matter how insipid, where you can get away with bad questions so long as someone comes along and blesses it with an undeservingly good answer, then GDSE will be a forum. A rathole of filth and garbage that few people would ever use as a viable resource.
Or, to put it another way, the fact that some people disagree with the SO principles does not mean that they are right. It does not mean that their voices and opinions need to be appeased. And it does not mean that their opinions should be allowed to hold back moderators from doing their jobs and getting rid of what needs to be gotten rid of.
Either we take a hard line stand against garbage like most SE sites, or GDSE should stop pretending to be a Stack Exchange site.